Israeli rapid COVID-19 test to be used in major European airports

A trial of the test last month involving some 400 people at Sheba showed about 95% accuracy.

A rapid COVID-19 screening test developed in Israel will be used to screen passengers in several European airports.
The test involves gargling with a small amount of special mouthwash and spitting it into a test tube.
Virusight Diagnostic, a newly formed Artificial Intelligence health care venture between Sheba Medical Center’s ARC Innovation Center and Newsight Imaging, has signed a strategic letter of intent for rapid screening of airline passengers with ICTS Europe, a security provider at major airports in 23 countries, Newsight announced in a statement on its website.
trial of the test last month involving some 400 people at Sheba showed about 95% accuracy.
“Tests will be immediate, affordable and monitored, so that airports and airlines can optimize the level of safety by mitigating the risk of COVID-19 infection,” the statement said.
The gargle test uses SpectraLIT, Newsight Imaging’s portable and accurate spectral analysis device, to determine the presence of the COVID-19 virus.
The article was published on The JPost

Moving White House ceremony starts to relegitimize a precious little word: Peace

26 years after the Israel-Jordan treaty, a whole generation of Israelis and Arabs witnesses something it had simply never seen before

(L-R) Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Donald Trump, and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan hold up the documents they signed at the Abraham Accords ceremony where Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognized Israel, at the White House in Washington, DC, September 15, 2020. (Avi Ohayon / GPO)

“In Israel’s entire history, there have previously been only two such agreements. Now we have achieved two in a single month. And there are more to follow.” Thus spoke US President Donald Trump near the start of his remarks to hundreds of people at the White House, and untold numbers around the world, watching on Tuesday as Israel established relations simultaneously with both the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Our first, earth-shattering peace agreement came in 1979, when Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat — having restored his country’s self-respect in the 1973 war, after its six-day humiliation in 1967 — shattered three decades of intransigent Arab hostility to the very fact of Israel’s existence and signed the Camp David Accords with prime minister Menachem Begin.

And then came… nothing.

Israel had wanted to believe that after Egypt, the floodgates of normalization would open. Instead, Egypt was boycotted by the rest of the Arab world for its crime in legitimizing Israel, and Sadat was soon gunned down.

Only 15 years later, in 1994, did Jordan’s King Hussein dare to become our second full peace partner, liberated to publicly acknowledge his hidden alliance with Israel because prime minister Yitzhak Rabin had pledged to try to resolve the Palestinian conflict and had warily shaken hands with Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn.

And then came… nothing. Nothing, this time, for a full quarter century

Until Tuesday’s dual wedding.

And so, when Trump noted that he was overseeing the doubling of Israel’s entire history of peace alliances, he was also telling a whole generation of Israelis and of Arabs — a generation that has simply never witnessed such a ceremony before — that, yes, Israeli-Arab peace is actually possible. It can be achieved here and now. It’s not something that happened a couple of times long ago and then froze over, or that dreamers talk endlessly about being almost within reach.

And it’s hopefully not something that, after it is ostensibly attained, disintegrates into conflict and bloodshed, as was the case with the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” and the strategic Palestinian terrorist onslaught of the Second Intifada.

For once, “let us put all cynicism aside,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in his remarks. And for a rare few hours, in the midst of a pandemic, and even as Hamas tried to spoil the show with rocket fire from Gaza, everything about the ceremony encouraged us to do precisely that.

What Netanyahu called “the pulse of history” was tangible in the warmth of the separate interactions between Trump, the two Gulf foreign ministers, and Netanyahu that preceded the main event. If Tuesday’s widening of the circle of peace was insufficient, Trump vouchsafed to Netanyahu that “five or six” other states are waiting in line. “Frankly, we could have had them here today,” he said, but that would have been disrespectful to the UAE, which had shown the courage to go first, and to Bahrain, which had been so determined to join the festivities.

It was tangible in the content of all the leaders’ speeches — their individual declared commitments to genuine and lasting peace between our peoples — and the sincerity and warmth with which they delivered their remarks.

It was tangible in the little-noticed moments, such as when UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah Al Nahyan, having completed his address, walked over to where Netanyahu was standing, and, with attention focused elsewhere, they smiled at each other and exchanged a few words. Or when everybody — and especially the joyful star of the show Al Nahyan — laughed good-naturedly at the logistical complexities that inevitably arise when two-to-four leaders are signing and/or witnessing three accords.

If Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel was the first vital step toward the acceptance of modern Israel’s revival in the Jews’ ancient homeland, Tuesday’s ceremony may come to signify our belated acceptance by those further afield who, as Trump noted, have for decades been fed lies and falsehoods about Israel, and especially Israel’s ostensible religious intolerance.

The Palestinians are still absent, of course, dismally led in the West Bank by President Mahmoud Abbas into what appears to be a deepening alliance with the Gaza-ruling terrorists of Hamas. Still, the US president who brokered these accords remains insistently optimistic that, as he told the press pack during his Oval Office session with Netanyahu, “at the right time, they’ll be joining too.”

“We’re here this afternoon to change the course of history,” Trump said at the very start of his speech. “After decades of division and conflict, we mark the dawn of a new Middle East,” he went on, and “thanks to the great courage of the leaders of these three countries, we take a major stride toward a future in which people of all faiths and backgrounds live together in peace and prosperity.”

Trump delivered these hitherto mind-boggling claims in tones that were almost matter-of-fact. These new peace allies are “going to work together; they are friends,” he said, as though this was the most normal thing in the world.

But for a whole generation, 26 years after any of us last saw anything like it, Tuesday’s ceremony was anything but normal. It was, rather, unprecedented, surprising and heartening. For once in the tortured context of Israel and the Arab conflict, it was a pleasure to put all cynicism aside.

For after 26 years, Tuesday’s ceremony tentatively relegitimized that precious little word: Peace.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Ashkenazi meets EU counterparts in Germany on first diplomatic trip overseas

The foreign minister pressed Germany to prevent Iranian arms embargo from running down in October

Israel’s Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi flew to Berlin Wednesday on his first official visit overseas where he is set to meet with his EU counterparts.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas invited Ashkenazi to Thursday’s conference of EU foreign ministers.

Shortly after his arrival, Ashkenazi met with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, thanking him for his country’s stance in designating the entirety of Hezbollah – both the political and military wing – as a terrorist organization.

In addition to updating the president on the recent deal to normalize ties between the United Arab Emirates and Israel, Ashkenazi also implored Germany’s head of state to prevent the United Nations’ arms embargo against Iran from running down in October.

Ashkenazi spoke at a ceremony at “Platform 17 in Berlin’s Grunewald Station, where there is a memorial marking Nazi Germany’s deportation of more than 55,000 Jews. He was joined by Israeli Ambassador to Germany Jeremy Issacharoff, Foreign Ministry Director-General Alon Ushpiz and representatives of the German Jewish community,” according to The Jerusalem Post.

“I stand here as the foreign minister of the government of Israel and the former IDF chief of staff,” Ashkenazi said. “Jews will never again be sent to their death because they are Jewish. Never again.”

The foreign minister will visit Wannsee, the villa in a Berlin suburb where the architects of the Nazi “Final solution” met – under the direction of Reinhardt Heydrich – to iron out details for the attempted slaughter of Europe’s 11 million Jews.

The article was published on the i24


UAE-Israel agreement followed many years of discreet talks

In-depth: Agreement between Abu Dhabi and Jerusalem comes as little surprise to those closely following the nuances of Mideast politics, with Trump almost single-mindedly pushing deal without resolution first to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Secret talks and quiet ties: That’s what paved the way for last week’s deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel to normalize relations.

Touted by President Donald Trump as a major Mideast breakthrough, the agreement was in fact the culmination of more than a decade of quiet links rooted in frenzied opposition to Iran that predated Trump and even Barack Obama, as well as Trump’s avowed goal to undo his predecessor’s Mideast legacy.
And the deal leaves behind what had been a cornerstone of U.S. policy in the region: resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The effort to achieve that goal picked up speed 17 months ago at a U.S.-led conference in Warsaw, according to officials involved.
That February 2019 meeting, originally conceived as an anti-Iran gathering, morphed into a broader Mideast security endeavor after European objections to its agenda. Many countries opted not to send their top diplomats, and Russia, China and the Palestinians skipped it entirely. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended, however, as did the foreign ministers of key Arab states.
At the summit, diplomats from Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain spoke of the threat Iran posed to their security and its use of Shiite proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. They stressed that confronting Iran had become the top priority — ahead of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — in comments appearing in leaked video, whose authenticity was confirmed by a U.S. official who attended the gathering.
Netanyahu followed, echoing similar concerns.“Iran was very high on the agenda because Iran’s foreign policy is the biggest driver of instability in today’s Middle East,” the U.S. special envoy for Iran, Brian Hook, told The Associated Press.
Four months after the summit, a secret meeting between the UAE and Israel took place on June 17, 2019, in Washington.
The trilateral focused on regional, cyber and maritime security, as well as diplomatic coordination and disrupting terror finance, according to a U.S. official who participated but was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
More meetings followed in the U.S., Israel and the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, culminating in Thursday’s Trump announcement that his administration had brokered a deal between Israel and the UAE to establish diplomatic relations and exchange embassies. The UAE said Israel also agreed to halt its controversial plans to annex large areas of the occupied West Bank sought by the Palestinians.
Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, told White House reporters that discussions for the deal took place over the past year and a half.
“Look, at the end of the day, it’s an inevitability, right?” Kushner said, adding later: “No Israeli has ever killed an Emirati, right? There’s not that hatred between the people.”
To be sure, Israel and the UAE have never fought each other in war and do not share borders. Still, the agreement was far more warmly welcomed in Israel than the UAE, where the public has long viewed Israel with suspicion. But criticism has been muted, in part because of government suppression of free speech.
The UAE, composed of seven emirates run by hereditary rulers led by Abu Dhabi, will be only the third Arab nation, after Egypt and Jordan, to have full ties with Israel. By doing so, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed laid a path for countries like Morocco, Bahrain, Oman or Sudan to potentially follow.
There are many, though, who shun any Arab embrace of Israel. To the Palestinians, who say they had no prior notice of the deal, the UAE turned its back on the longstanding Arab consensus that recognition of Israel can only come after Israeli concessions in peace talks lead to the creation of a Palestinian state.
“I think the UAE is least beholden to these old formulas of solidarity … which gives them more strategic flexibility,” said Kristin Smith Diwan, a scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington.
“There’s no question that among the broader Arab and Gulf public, this will be a very unpopular move,” she said, adding that the agreement also leaves the UAE vulnerable to whatever decisions Israel makes in the future.
For the UAE, however, the calculus to build relations with Israel carries a number of strategic advantages beyond countering Iran and suspending West Bank annexation.
Through Israel, the UAE can build stronger ties with both Republicans and Democrats — a crucial hedge considering the uncertainty of Trump’s reelection chances against former Vice President Joe Biden in November’s U.S. presidential elections.
Another impetus was the perception among Arab Gulf states that U.S. dependability had waned, from the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran, to Trump’s unpredictability in foreign policy. Their views on the matter have been reflected in state-linked newspaper columns and in quiet grumbling at private gatherings.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE were also barred by Congress from purchasing billions of dollars in U.S. weapons due to the humanitarian toll of their war in Yemen, before Trump vetoed the measures.
“Their first preference is to have the United States heavily involved in the Middle East as their primary ally. If they can’t get that, which … under Trump they absolutely cannot, then they’re going for second best, and Israel is second best,” said Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA analyst and now Mideast expert at the American Enterprise Institute.
The Saudis and Emiratis want to build up military strength and want the U.S. to give them more freedom of maneuver in places like Libya, Yemen and the Horn of Africa. With a stronger Emirati-Israeli alliance, “they can count on the Israelis to also make that case in Washington,” Pollack said.
Hook argues it was the Trump administration’s aggressive Iran policy and decision to withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear accord that helped seal the latest deal.
“Israel and UAE felt betrayed by Obama’s Iran strategy. With us, they knew we stood with our allies and partners, and that trust was a critical factor in getting this peace agreement done,” said Hook, who was involved in the trilateral talks.
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has eroded vital oil and tourism revenue, the UAE will look to its ties with Israel to deepen trade links, security cooperation and technology sharing. Already, the UAE has deployed Israeli spyware against dissidents, according to a lawsuit brought against the company in Israel.
UAE efforts to seek better ties with Israel as a means of improving its standing in Washington dates back to 2006, according to Sigurd Neubauer, author of the book “The Gulf Region and Israel: Old Struggles, New Alliances.”
It began with a public-relations crisis over Dubai port operator DP World’s failed bid to manage major ports in the U.S. The longtime UAE ambassador to the U.S., Yousef Al-Otaiba, held his first meeting with an Israeli official in 2008 and a diplomatic channel was established to focus on Iran, Neubauer said.
The relationship hit a snag in 2010 when the UAE accused Israeli Mossad operatives of assassinating Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel.
Nearly a decade later, then-Culture Minister Miri Regev stood in Abu Dhabi and sang her country’s national anthem at a judo competition, shook hands warmly with Emirati officials and toured the emirate’s grand mosque in a public spectacle of warming ties.
In January, when Trump unveiled his Mideast plan — it was rejected by the Palestinians — the ambassadors of the UAE, Bahrain and Oman attended the White House ceremony, which featured Netanyahu.
Senior Emirati diplomat Anwar Gargash said the relationship with Israel grew “organically” over the last 15 years or so.
“Through engagement with the Trump administration, the idea … developed and percolated, and it was right to do it,” he said.
The article was published on Ynet

How Europe can become a player in the Middle East

From an Austrian Member of Parliament: The EU could play a supporting role – recognizing Israeli concerns, and encouraging Palestinian compromise

Regarding the Middle East, the EU has so far played the role of the two old men in the “Muppet Show”: observing the course of events from the box and bitching about it. The Europeans could do well as mediators though.

The United States presented the Trump Peace Plan a few months ago to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The new Israeli government under Prime Minister Netanyahu is preparing to extend Israeli sovereignty to parts of the West Bank based on this plan. In these developments, the European Union have so far only been grumpy bystanders. But Europe could become a player in the Middle East again. Here’s how.

First, a sober inventory should be taken: the Middle East is and remains an immediate neighborhood region of Europe. Events there can quickly have an impact on Europe — see the refugee crisis of 2015. Therefore we cannot be indifferent to what is happening there.

Second, the EU has not made a constructive contribution to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for many years. The engagement usually ends with a condemnation of Israel. Financial support for the Palestinians to maintain the — actually undesirable — status quo continues. What remains is the ritualized lip service to a (not defined) two-state solution.

Third, it should also be noted in the EU that the status of the West Bank under international law is not that clear. The last legal sovereign was Britain. When the United Kingdom ended the League of Nations’ mandate in 1948, Jordan occupied the West Bank, without any legal claim, and held it until the Six Day War in 1967 without establishing a Palestinian state there.

The pioneering UN Security Council Resolution 242 adopted after the 1967 arms movement, laid down two things: Every State (note: specifically Israel was meant) had the right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats and acts of force. And furthermore, Israel had to withdraw from territories occupied in the recent conflict.

It is of critical importance here that the wording deliberately chosen was the indefinite designation “from territories” and not “from the territories.” This left open which parts of the West Bank Israel would have to withdraw from, especially with regard to the establishment of secure borders. And the pre-1967 armistice lines were certainly not such safe limits.

This is exactly what the narrative of Israel is based on, that in the case of the West Bank they are “disputed territories.” The US government recently joined this position.

Fourth, it is about an effective negotiation strategy. The Austrian courts could serve as an excellent example: Here, judges and mediators are more and more successful in bringing the parties to the dispute to a reasonable compromise. The recipe? They make it very clear to both parties that the issue is not black and white, that the outcome will ultimately always be an arrangement, but by then the two parties will have lost so much time, energy and money that it makes a lot more sense to find a compromise right now. It’s amazing to see how well this works.

What happens now in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? The United States and, finally, some Arab countries are increasingly making it clear to the Palestinians that sticking to maximal demands (such as receiving the entire West Bank, dividing Jerusalem, retaining the right of return for refugees, including those who have not lived in Israel for generations, etc.) doesn’t bring the Palestinians a step closer to a solution. Rather, the Palestinians would have to return to the negotiating table with Israel which they left in 2010.

However, some EU countries such as France, Belgium, Sweden, Ireland etc. do exactly the opposite: metaphorically speaking, they threaten and sanction one party to the dispute (Israel) again and again, while constantly assuring the other party to the dispute (the Palestinians) that their claim is justified. And they also support the latter politically and financially so that they just don’t give up their narrative.

Fifth, the EU can therefore only play a role in the Middle East if it does not leave Israel policy in the hands of notorious critics of Israel such as the EU’s foreign minister Josep Borrell. Its predecessor, Federica Mogherini was not even received in Israel, and Borrell will probably be no different.

Some European countries such as the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Latvia as well as Austria are breaking new ground. With a greater understanding of Israel’s difficult security situation and willingness to signal to the Palestinians that they too must be willing to compromise. With the clear message — as with the Austrian courts — that time is not on their side.

The Palestinians never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity, former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban said many years ago. It was exactly 100 years ago that the Sévres Treaty provided for an autonomous state for the Kurds. Today hardly anyone knows that, and the Kurds are now considered one of the largest peoples without their own nation-state.

If the Palestinians are not to suffer the same fate as the Kurds, then there could be another historical chance of obtaining one at the negotiating table. Of course, involving a cut in their previous expectations.

This is exactly where the Europeans could support the Palestinians and thus play a supporting role in the Middle East. This is certainly not possible with threats and sanctions against Israel, but rather by demanding the principle of reality, understanding the narratives of both sides, pushing for a willingness to compromise and last but not least: the promise to Israel and the emerging Palestinian state structure that they both can expect generous economic support from the EU and maximum integration into Europe.

This could form a viable bridge from Europe to the Middle East, which could become an alliance for peace, freedom and prosperity.

The Op-Ed was written by  Austrian MP, Martin Engelberg and was published in The Times of Israel


‘We Share Your Pain’: Israel Offers Aid to Lebanon After Beirut Port Blast

President Rivlin tweets in Arabic: ‘We sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time’

Israel has offered humanitarian assistance to Lebanon after a massive explosion rocked its capital Beirut on Tuesday, Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.

“Israel has approached Lebanon through international security and diplomatic channels and has offered the Lebanese government medical and humanitarian assistance,” a written statement from Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said.

The international mediators Israel employed were the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, and France.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the prime minister asked National Security Adviser Meir Ben-Shabbat to reach out to the UN envoy to the region, Nickolay Mladenov, on this matter.

President Reuven Rivlin also offered his assistance, tweeting: “We share the pain of the Lebanese people and sincerely reach out to offer our aid at this difficult time.”

A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of an explosion in Beirut, August 4, 2020.
A damaged vehicle is seen at the site of an explosion in Beirut, August 4, 2020. Credit: MOHAMED AZAKIR/Reuters

The Israeli army’s spokesman in Arabic, Avichay Adraee, tweeted in Arabic about the Israeli offer, adding: “This is the time to transcend conflict.”

Several Israeli lawmakers also posted messages of support on social media after Lebanese authorities reported thousands of casulaties in the blast.

Dr. Salman Zarka, director of the Ziv Medical Center, near Israel’s border with Lebanon, said in a Facebook message in Arabic: “We are ready to provide medical assistance as we did before with the people of south [Lebanon] and the people of Syria.”

An Israeli political source denied that the country had any connection to the incident, which came amid tensions with Hezbollah. Defense Minister Benny Gantz and Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said they had used international mediators UNIFIL and France to offer humanitarian and medical assistance to Lebanon.

The blast flattened much of the city’s port, damaging buildings and blowing out windows and doors as a giant mushroom cloud rose above the capital. Hours later, ambulances were still carrying away the wounded and officials said Beirut’s hospitals were full. Army helicopters helped battle fires raging at the port.

Abbas Ibrahim, chief of Lebanese General Security, said the blast might have been caused by highly explosive material that was confiscated from a ship some time ago and stored at the port. Local television channel LBC said the material was sodium nitrate.

Beirut governor Marwan Abboud said the city was a “disaster area” and the scale of the damage was “enormous.”

Lebanese Prime Minister Hassan Diab declared Wednesday would be a national day of mourning for the victims, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Other countries, including the U.S., U.K., Turkey, Jordan and Iran have all also offered their assistance to Lebanon in the aftermath of the blast.

The article was published on Haaretz


Israel says Hezbollah tried to breach its northern border; IDF warns against further provocations

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it exchanged fire with fighters from the Iran-backed Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah along the Israeli-Lebanese frontier on Monday.

The Israeli army said troops foiled a Hezbollah attack by 3 or 4 men who infiltrated a few metres over the Blue Line that separates Israel and Lebanon. It added there were no casualties among Israeli forces.

“Hezbollah should know it is playing with fire”, Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. Both Netanyahu and defence minister Benny Gantz warned the governments of Syria and Lebanon that they would be held responsible for any attacks against Israel coming from their territory.

Hezbollah carried out the operation against Israeli soldiers in the disputed Shebaa Farms area, media quoted a witness as saying. The area is occupied by Israel and claimed by Lebanon. The United Nations regards it as part of Syrian territory captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israeli forces have been on alert along the border in anticipation of Hezbollah retaliation for the killing of one of its members in an alleged Israeli airstrike in Syria last week.

In a statement on Monday, Hezbollah denied its forces had tried to infiltrate the Lebanese-Israeli frontier or that it had engaged in clashes in the Shebaa Farms area. The group said that the incident was “one-sided” and that Israeli forces had “moved nervously on the ground” due to a heightened state of alert.

“If Israel decides to go to war with us, then we will confront them, and the 2006 War will be the model for our response”, Hezbollah’s deputy chief Naim Qasim said in response.

The article was published on New Europe


PM hastily appoints new virus czar after Barbash walks away from post

Ichilov Hospital chief Prof. Roni Gamzu says he’s received the phone call about taking on the role late in the evening, shortly after Prof. Gabriel Barbash relinquished appointment over disagreements about authority

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hastily appointed a new “coronavirus czar” late on Wednesday, shortly after Prof. Gabriel Barbash relinquished his appointment, only a day after officially taking on the role.
 
The appointment came after Prof. Barabash withdrew his name over his insistence to receive full authority over the Health Ministry’s decisions and increase the scope of his powers.
Roni Gamzu, the current CEO of the Ichilov Medical Center in Tel Aviv and former director general of the Health Ministry said he had received a phone call about taking on the role to lead the coronavirus fight in Israel in “the late hours of the evening.”
“The prime minister and the health minister reached out to me to help them with the coronavirus crisis, after the appointment of Prof. Barbash unfortunately fell through, I immediately gave an affirmative response,” he said.
Gamzu’s appointment was officially announced early Tthursday by the prime minister’s office and was apparently made before the parameters of his authority were decided upon. He said he agreed to take on the job without hesitation out of a sense of national responsibility.
“This is a medical, economic and social crisis,” he added. “I do not ask questions in such a situation, I just come to contribute everything and help my country and the health system in managing the crisis.”
In a statement released by Barbash he cited time as a critical element in combatting the virus and noted that since there was no agreement as to the scope of his authority in the role, he chose to clear the way for another candidate to be assigned.
Health Minister Yuli Edelstein announced on June 6, that he would be appointing a coronavirus czar who would oversee the ministry’s actions.
The article was published on Ynet

130 schools now closed; 17,605 staff, students in quarantine for virus

More new diagnoses in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem since Friday, despite more testing in capital; death toll rises as three more people succumb to COVID; 2,474 people currently infected with disease, including 111 new cases

The Education Ministry said on Sunday that 130 schools and kindergartens have been closed due to staff and students contracting the virus in the past 10 days – 24 of them since Saturday.
Additionally, 17,605 students and staff members are now in quarantine, an increase of 1,282 since Saturday.
So far, 352 students and staff members nationwide have been diagnosed with the virus in the current wave, including 22 over the past 24 hours.
The Health Ministry also said that more people have tested positive for coronavirus in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem since Friday, with 46 new cases in the coastal city as opposed to 37 in the capital.
The ministry also reported that over the past five days, some 13,000 tests for the virus were conducted in Jerusalem, while at the same time, only about 3,600 were carried out in Tel Aviv.
According to the ministry’s data, 111 new COVID-19 patients have been diagnosed, with the total number of cases rising to 17,863.
Three more patients have died from virus-related complications, bringing the total number of fatalities from the disease up to 298.
There has also been a climb in the number of people requiring respiratory assistance, with 23 patients currently using ventilators.
The number of daily recoveries has declined over the past few days, with only 26 registered on Sunday, while the number of active patients has risen by 283 to 2,474.
Health officials said Sunday that they fear a new outbreak is taking place in Jaffa, where 10 people have so far been diagnosed with the virus in recent days.
The article was published in Ynet

Pnina Tamano-Shata to become first Ethiopian-born minister

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz made history on Thursday, when he told MK Pnina Tamano-Shata that she will become the first Ethiopian-born minister in Israel’s history.

Tamano-Shata, who will be minister of immigrant absorption, came to Israel in Operation Moses when she was three years old. Gantz was one of the commanders of the operation.

The highest-ranking woman in Blue and White, MK Miki Haimovich, will not be a minister at the start of the government being formed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White leader Benny Gantz on Thursday night.

Gantz met with Haimovich on Thursday morning and offered her ministerial posts, but she told him she preferred to head the Knesset’s Interior and Environmental Affairs Committee.

Haimovich, a former news anchor, has focused on environmental issues, but the Likud insisted on keeping the Environmental Protection portfolio because of the Likud’s opposition to Haimovich’s views.

Gantz appointed MK Alon Schuster as Agriculture Minister on Thursday morning. Schuster is a farmer from Kibbutz Mefalsim and former mayor of the Shaar Hanegev regional council.

MK Chili Tropper was appointed by Gantz as the minister of culture and sports in the upcoming government.

As expected, when Gantz met with MK Gabi Ashkenazi, he officially gave him the Foreign Affairs portfolio, and when meeting MK Avi Nisenkorn, he gave him the Justice Ministry.

Gantz gave the Science and Technology portfolio to MK Izhar Shai, a former hi-tech executive.

Gantz appointed MK Meirav Cohen as social equality minister. As part of her duties she will be in charge of protecting the rights of Holocaust survivors.
Cohen will replace the current minister in that office, Gila Gamliel.
The article was published in the JPost

EIB signs collaboration with Israel Innovation Authority and €50 million financing agreement with Pluristem to develop therapies for COVID-19 and other unmet medical needs

  • European Investment Bank (EIB) backs Pluristem with €50 million of financing, which will help the company to advance the clinical development of its cell therapies and address a number of severe medical conditions
  • The deal is the first Israeli-European project guaranteed by the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial pillar of the Investment Plan for Europe, a joint initiative of the EIB and the European Commission
  • The signature was announced in the context of a Memorandum of Understanding, by which the EIB and the National Technological Innovation Authority of Israel have agreed to cooperate in the globally emerging field of bio-convergence

Today, the European Investment Bank and the Israel Innovation Authority signed a cooperation agreement to jointly pursue investment opportunities in the domain of bio-convergence in health. The intersection of biopharma, information technology and engineering is an important building block in supporting global public health goals. The agreement, initiated by kENUP Foundation, aims at deepening the links between Israel and the EU, fostering innovation in the region, closing investment gaps and jointly assuming global leadership in the area of bio-convergence. Ultimately, it is set to benefit Israeli and European citizens and corporations.

In the context of this Memorandum of Understanding, the EIB is supporting Pluristem through its German subsidiary Pluristem GmbH, with a venture debt loan of €50 million. Pluristem is a regenerative medicine company with a focus on novel biological products. The company uses cells derived from placentafor the development of product candidates for the treatment of severe medical conditions such as infections, inflammation, ischemia, muscle injury, haematological disorder or acute radiation syndrome. It has recently extended its activity in response to the coronavirus pandemic and treated several COVID-19 patients with acute respiratory failure under the “compassionate use” programme, a treatment option which allows the use of unauthorised medicine for severely ill patients.

The financing will support Pluristem’s research and development in the EU, notably its regenerative cell therapy platform. It will also allow the company to push its advanced clinical pipeline towards marketing. Pluristem will receive the financing in three tranches, subject to the achievement of pre-agreed clinical regulatory and scaling up milestones. The first tranche will consist of € 20 million. The company is the first Israeli-European business to benefit from a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the financial centre-piece of the Investment Plan for Europe, in which the EIB and the European Commission are working together to mobilise investment in the EU.Pluristem was previously funded by the Israel Innovation Authority.

European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said: “The Investment Plan for Europe has a strong track record of supporting ground-breaking research and development in the health sector. Pluristem is carrying out highly innovative and crucial work in the fight against coronavirus, now boosted by financial backing from the EU.”

“Today’s signatures show that we are successful when we stand together,” said Ambroise Fayolle, EIB Vice-President in charge of innovation. “Israel is home to a thriving scene of innovative startups, which dominate the high-tech industry. Pluristem is an excellent example of Israeli-European cooperation and EIB support for them is particularly timely, as it will allow the company to develop a treatment for the most vulnerable COVID-19 patients. Working together often saves time and resources – in this case it has the potential to save lives.”

Dr Ami Appelbaum, Chairman, Israel Innovation Authority and Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy and Industry, explained: “Israel views bio-convergence as its next economic growth engine. This innovative approach serves as an engine to find efficient, diverse and ingenious approaches to health problem solving. It integrates biology with engineering, AI, physics, computation, nanotechnology and material science in order to address unmet needs in numerous industries, including health, agriculture, energy and defence. The collaboration between the European Investment Bank and the Israel Innovation Authority provides a unique opportunity to advance this area providing companies with various financing opportunities from early stage to growth. As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads globally, it is of vital importance to employ cutting edge technological innovation with global outreach to provide the much needed relief the world is looking for.”

EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret said: “A coordinated global response is needed to fight COVID-19, and the EU is launching a worldwide pledging marathon precisely to ensure that the world works together to find safe, effective and affordable treatments, diagnostics and vaccines. Today’s important agreement with the EIB will help to develop promising treatment for coronavirus, and is yet another achievement of the EU and Israel, strengthening our cooperation in research and innovation. We thank Israeli researchers for their efforts, and look forward to continued joint work for the benefit of all.”

Pluristem CEO and President Yaky Yanay stated: “Pluristem would like to thank the EIB for its financial support and its commitment to finding an effective treatment for life-threatening medical conditions, among them complications associated with COVID-19. Our company’s mission of harnessing the power of regenerative medicine to improve the wellbeing of an aging population has become more urgent than ever, as we work tirelessly to develop a treatment for COVID-19 complications while advancing our portfolio of products in advanced stage trials to treat a number of indications that may positively impact on global healthcare systems. We are honoured to become the first Israeli-European company to benefit from a guarantee from the European Fund for Strategic Investments.”

Background information

The European Investment Bank is the long-term lending institution of the European Union owned by its Member States. It makes long-term finance available for sound investments in order to contribute towards EU policy goals. The EIB also supports investments outside the EU.

About the Israel Innovation Authority

The Israel Innovation Authority, responsible for the country’s innovation policy, is an independent and impartial public entity that operates for the benefit of the Israeli innovation ecosystem and Israeli economy as a whole. Its role is to nurture and develop Israeli innovation resources, while creating and strengthening the infrastructure and framework needed to support the entire knowledge industry. The Israel Innovation Authority provides a variety of practical tools and funding platforms aimed at addressing the dynamic and changing needs of the local and international innovation ecosystems.

About the Investment Plan for Europe

The Investment Plan for Europe is one of the EU’s key actions to boost investment in Europe, thereby creating jobs and fostering growth. To this end, smarter use is made of new and existing financial resources. The EIB Group is playing a vital role in this investment plan. With guarantees from the European Fund for Strategic Investments, the EIB and EIF are able to take on a higher share of project risk, encouraging private investors to participate in the projects. To date, the projects and agreements approved under EFSI are expected to mobilise around €478 billion of investments and to benefit over 1 million small and medium-sized companies throughout the EU.

About Pluristem

Pluristem is a leading regenerative medicine company developing novel placenta-based cell therapy product candidates. The company has reported robust clinical trial data in multiple indications for its patented PLX cell product candidates and is currently conducting late stage clinical trials in several indications. PLX cell product candidates are believed to release a range of therapeutic proteins in response to inflammation, ischemia, muscle trauma, hematological disorders and radiation damage. The cells are grown using the company’s proprietary technology and can be administered to patients off-the-shelf, without tissue matching. Pluristem has a strong intellectual property position; a Company-owned and operated GMP-certified manufacturing and research facility; strategic relationships with major research institutions; and a seasoned management team.

About the EIB-IIA MoU

The Memorandum of Understanding between the EIB and the Israel Innovation Authority recognises the shared commitment to deepening the links between Israel and the EU, to foster innovation in the region, to close investment gaps and to jointly assume global leadership in the area of bio-convergence. The Israel Innovation Authority is a reliable partner for the EIB in view of its broad technical and sector expertise and its well-established relationships with relevant industrial and public players. At the invitation of kENUP Foundation, the EIB and the Innovation Authority convened a series of meetings between October 2018 and January 2020 to discuss future common endeavours. In addition, the EIB has identified a number of innovative smaller companies supported by the Innovation Authority with investments in Israel and in Europe, which are promising counterparts for EIB equity-type operations.

Safe Harbour Statement

This press release contains express or implied forward-looking statements within the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995 and other U.S. Federal securities laws. For example, Pluristem is using forward-looking statements when it discusses that the proceeds from the EIB financing will help it advance the clinical development of its cell therapies and address a number of severe medical conditions, as well as support its research and development of its regenerative cell therapy platform in the EU,  and allow it to push its advanced clinical pipeline towards marketing, that the cooperation agreement between the EIB and the Israel Innovation Authority is set to benefit Israeli and European citizens and corporations and that the agreement with the EIB will help to develop a promising treatment for coronavirus. While the EIB and Pluristem have executed the loan agreement, there is no guarantee that Pluristem will achieve the milestones necessary to receive any or all of the three tranches. These forward-looking statements and their implications are based on the current expectations of the management of Pluristem only, and are subject to a number of factors and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements. The following factors, among others, could cause actual results to differ materially from those described in the forward-looking statements: changes in technology and market requirements; Pluristem may encounter delays or obstacles in launching and/or successfully completing its clinical trials; Pluristem’s products may not be approved by regulatory agencies, Pluristem’s technology may not be validated as it progresses further and its methods may not be accepted by the scientific community; Pluristem may be unable to retain or attract key employees whose knowledge is essential to the development of its products; unforeseen scientific difficulties may develop with Pluristem’s process; Pluristem’s products may wind up being more expensive than it anticipates; results in the laboratory may not translate to equally good results in real clinical settings; results of preclinical studies may not correlate with the results of human clinical trials; Pluristem’s patents may not be sufficient; Pluristem’s products may harm recipients; changes in legislation may adversely impact Pluristem; inability to timely develop and introduce new technologies, products and applications; loss of market share and pressure on pricing resulting from competition, which could cause the actual results or performance of Pluristem to differ materially from those contemplated in such forward-looking statements. Except as otherwise required by law, Pluristem undertakes no obligation to publicly release any revisions to these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances after the date hereof or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. For a more detailed description of the risks and uncertainties affecting Pluristem, reference is made to Pluristem’s reports filed from time to time with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The article was statement was published on the European commission website


Germany designates Hezbollah as terrorist group, conducts raids on suspects


EIPA welcomes Germany’s Hizbollah ban, urges other EU states to follow

Germany has banned Iran-backed Hezbollah activity on its soil and designated it a terrorist organisation, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday, arrests of suspected members then followed across the country early this morning.

“Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has banned the Shiite terrorist organisation Hezbollah in Germany,” tweeted a ministry spokesman. “Even in times of crisis, the rule of law is capable of acting,” he added.

The German move follows similar moves taken by the United States first, and then Britain in February. It marks the first significant move on continental European soil.

A spokesman for Europe Israel Public Affairs, a Brussels based Pro-Israel advocacy group, responded to the move this morning:

“We welcome the decisive move taken by the German government. The separation of Hizbollah into political and military wings was not only a fiction but also an absurdity, like trying to hold the arm less responsible for the actions of the hand.

Hizbollah are one and the same, an Iran backed terror organisation that not only threatens Israel, but the middle East as a whole. Conferring upon them a semblance of legitimacy by separating politics from ‘military’ actions has been a mistake that many countries are waking up to. In the weeks and months ahead we will be actively convincing other European States from our base here in Brussels, to follow Germany and end this distinction that Hizbollah have used everyone’s detriment.”

Read More>>>


Israel Comes to a Halt in Memory of Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism

Israeli soldiers stand next to graves of fallen soldiers during a ceremony at a military cemetery in Tel Aviv, April 27, 2020. Photo: Reuters/ Corinna Kern.

Israelis stood in silence — many on the balconies of their homes due to coronavirus restrictions — on Monday night as a one-minute siren sounded nationwide to mark the start of the annual Memorial Day for Fallen Soldiers and Victims of Terrorism.

A total of 23,816 soldiers have died defending Israel, while 3,153 civilians have lost their lives in terrorist attacks throughout the country’s history.

Another siren — two minutes in length — will be heard in the morning on Tuesday morning.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, family members and friends of the fallen will not be able to visit their graves in military cemeteries across the country, as is the usual custom.

At the end of Monday night’s nationally-televised Memorial Day ceremony, many Israelis across the country went on to their balconies…

At an official state ceremony at the Western Wall in Jerusalem on Monday, which was held without an audience, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said in remarks addressed to the bereaved, “This year, we can’t cry together. This year, we can’t look into your eyes.”

Nevertheless, he vowed, Israelis would remember the “unfathomable price” paid for the country’s ongoing existence.

At the same event, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi said, “Bereaved families, even now, despite the distance, all of Israel is with you, through all kinds of screens. Every person in their home is stopping, sympathizing [and] dedicating time to the memory of your sons and daughters.”

“These are complicated times, which bring worry and concern from the lingering danger,” he added. “A time of crisis is like a time of war. It pushes aside the trivial and minor and makes the important things, the ethical things and the sanctity of life stand out.”

The article was published on The Algemeiner


Netanyahu and Gantz sign deal for unity government

Agreement leaves Netanyahu in PM’s chair for next 18 months when he will be replaced by Gantz, who will serve as defense minister in interim; Blue & White gets 16 ministries in 32-member government, the largest in Israel’s history

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his chief rival Benny Gantz said on Monday that they have forged a deal to form an “emergency” unity government.
The deal between Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party and Gantz’ Blue and White ends months of political paralysis and averts what would have been a fourth consecutive election since April 2019.
Under the agreement, the two party leaders will rotate the prime minister’s post for the three-year term of the government, with Netanyahu remaining in office for the first year and a half.
Former IDF chief Gantz will serve in the interim as defense minister and as locum prime minister should the need arise.
The government is expected to include 32 ministers and more than a dozen deputy ministers, making it the largest in Israel’s history.
Blue and White will receive 16 ministries, including defense, foreign affairs for half of the term; justice, immigration and absorption, culture and sports, economics and welfare (which have been earmarked for Labor’s Amir Peretz and Itzik Shmuli), communications, agriculture, strategic issues, tourism, social equality, and diaspora affairs.
Gantz’s political partner Gabi Ashkenazi will serve as foreign minister during the first 18 months.
Likud will receive the foreign affairs portfolio for half of the term, public security, transportation, housing, education, environmental protection, energy, Jerusalem affairs, and other less key posts.
The agreement also gives Netanyahu veto power over the appointment of the attorney general and state prosecutor – the two senior officials who oversaw the prime minister’s indictment for bribery, fraud and breach of trust.
During the period of an “emergency government,” which is set to last six months, there will be no appointments requiring government approval. This means that acting state prosecutor Dan Eldad, who was appointed by the justice minister and Netanyahu ally Amir Ohana, will remain in post.
The two sides also decided that if the High Court of Justice rules before the new government is sworn in that Netanyahu cannot form a coalition due to the indictments against him, the agreement becomes void and the Knesset will dissolve. Should that happen, Netanyahu would remain prime minister until new elections are held.
The committee for judicial nominations will include two MKs from Likud as well as Derekh Eretz MK Zvi Hauser as “the representative from the opposition.”
Gantz on the campaign trail promised not to sit in a government led by a prime minister facing criminal charges, but he recently backtracked, saying the enormity of the coronavirus crisis necessitated an emergency unity government.
“We have prevented a fourth election. We will protect democracy. We will fight coronavirus and care for all of Israel’s citizens,” Gantz said on Twitter after signing the deal.
Netanyahu tweeted a picture of Israel’s blue and white flag, followed by a statement that read: “I promised the State of Israel a national emergency government that will work to save the lives and livelihoods of the citizens of Israel.”
The deal states that Likud will take over the leadership of the Knesset’s coronavirus committee.
After the deal was signed, Netanyahu called Education Minister Rafi Peretz and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett to inform them that an agreement had been reached. Netanyahu is expected to offer Bennett’s Yamina party two ministerial posts although it had been angling for three.
Yamina said in response that, “Netanyahu has shown us the door.”
The unity agreement includes a clause that states that Israel will assume sovereignty over the West Bank on July 1, a move that has drawn massive international criticism when it was announced as part of U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan for Middle East peace.
Blue & White said: “The Trump plan will be moved forward responsibly, with protection of the strategic assets of the State of Israel and of regional stability.”
‘Slap in the face of Israeli majority’ Joint List leader Ayman Odeh slammed the agreement, calling it a “slap in the face” for the majority of Israelis.
“Gantz and Netanyahu’s government of surrender is a slap in the face of the civilian majority who goes to the polls time and time again to oust Netanyahu,” said Odeh, who backed Gantz to form the government in the wake of the March 2 elections.
“Gantz was not courageous enough to triumph and chose to legitimize annexation, racism, and corruption,” Odeh said.
The announcement also drew fire from Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, who has long been a backer of a unity government to end the political stalemate.
He dismissed it as “another government of [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu and his religious-messianic bloc.”
“I welcome the establishment of the government, although it is not a unity government,” Liberman said.
“This is another government of Netanyahu and the Haredi-messianic bloc with a fig leaf from two senior [IDF officers],” he said, referring to Gantz and Ashkenazi, both former army chiefs.
Liberman added that his party would be part of the “substantive opposition.”
The article was published in Ynet

Netanyahu, Gantz say near unity deal as Rivlin extends mandate

PM and Blue & white leader say they’ve made ‘significant progress’ following an overnight meeting, prompting the president to extend Gantz’s 28- days mandate to form coalition by 2 extra days

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz were nearing a deal on Tuesday to form a national emergency government to battle the coronavirus crisis and end the country’s unprecedented political deadlock.
 
Gantz’s 28-day mandate to put together a ruling coalition after last month’s inconclusive election was due to expire at midnight, but President Reuven Rivlin, who is overseeing the coalition talks, extended it for two days.
Rivlin did so, his office said, “on the understanding that they are very close to reaching an agreement.”
Gantz and Netanyahu met overnight in a last-ditch effort to settle their differences. Afterwards they issued a joint statement saying they had made “significant progress.” The two are set to meet again with their negotiating teams later in the morning.
The impasse, after national elections in April and September 2019 and again last month, raised the prospect of a fourth ballot, complicating any plans for economic recovery once the coronavirus outbreak eases.
Without a deal, it will be up to parliament to pick a candidate who would then have 14 days to form a government. Failure to do so would automatically trigger a snap election.
“Netanyahu, this is our moment of truth. It’s either a national emergency government or, God forbid, a fourth election which would be expensive and, in this crisis period, gratuitous,” Gantz said late on Monday in broadcast remarks.
Gantz said the enormity of the coronavirus emergency had caused him to break a campaign promise not to sit in a government with Netanyahu, who has been indicted on corruption charges.
Netanyahu, who has headed successive caretaker administrations during the political stalemate, denies the charges.
In his own televised statement, the veteran premier imposed a ban on inter-city travel for the final days of the Passover holiday this week to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
Restrictions already in place have confined most Israelis to their homes for weeks, forcing many businesses to close and sending unemployment soaring to more than 25%.
Netanyahu said his cabinet could formulate an “exit strategy” as soon as this weekend, though he cautioned restrictions on the economy and education would be eased gradually and that there would be no full return to routine before a coronavirus vaccine is discovered.

Israel: Top Health Ministry official says measures against virus working

Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Health Itamar Grotto stressed that the country remain vigilant

A top Health Ministry official said Tuesday that steps the Israeli government has taken to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus are succeeding, but cautioned against relaxing any measures until more testing is complete.

In a public statement, Deputy Director-General of the Health Ministry Prof. Itamar Grotto said that “the rate of increase in patients is relatively moderate and lower than we feared, meaning that the steps we have taken so far against the coronavirus have been successful.”

At the same time, Grotto added, “We mustn’t stop, we have the difficult period of Passover, and we must by the end of [Passover] follow the instructions.”

On Monday,incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered that a nationwide lockdown would take effect Tuesday evening until the end of the weekend in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus during Passover when families traditionally gather together to celebrate the holiday.

Netanyahu stressed that the upcoming week would determine whether the situation in the country deteriorates or takes a turn for the better, and added that the upcoming holiday will not be like Purim, which saw an uptick in transmissions.

“It is important for us to continue doing tests, which will also be carried out during the holiday, the labs will work as normal. It is essential to go out and be tested.”

Updated figures released by the Health Ministry Tuesday showed that the country has suffered 59 fatalities due to the coronavirus epidemic, with another 9,006 confirmed cases.

The article was published on I24 news


The Israeli Inventions That Lessen The Healthcare System’s Burden

Israeli innovation has been enlisted in the battle against Covid-19. Here are six technological inventions helping health personnel in their fight against the pandemic

The coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic has shed an unflattering light on the faults of the global healthcare systems, from China to Italy, and posed a myriad of new challenges to both healthcare professionals and researchers. Governments, including that of Israel, have called on tech companies to enlist in the battle against the outbreak. In reality, many medtech and biotech companies have already started working to alter their technologies accordingly.

In Israel, both industry veterans and young startups have jumped into the fray, allocating resources and manpower in an effort to find new solutions that could ease the strain on the overburdened healthcare system. Calcalist has taken a closer look at some of the most prominent ones.

Discover the virus in seconds: the AI that identifies the virus with a simple CT scan


Israeli-American RADLogics Inc. is a software analytics company that specializes in visual analysis of medical scans using AI and has a research and development center in Tel Aviv. The company’s products were one of the first in its category to receive approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Its tools are used to detect early signs of medical issues such as lung cancer.Around two months ago, use of RADLogics’ products in China started revealing novel findings; something small and patch-like in the lungs of patients. Very quickly, medical professionals identified the patch as a phenomenon unique to coronavirus patients. More surprising was the fact that it was also found in asymptomatic carriers. The findings echoed a study published in China, which looked at around 1,000 patients and found that CT scans indicated the presence of the virus in 48% of people who were found negative in the regular test.

The information RADLogics’ system provided in China helped the company adjust its products for the specific identification of coronavirus, and now it offers a new identification avenue for the virus and claims it can provide results within seconds instead of hours. The company said the test can be done using existing CT machines quickly and noninvasively, and that the results can help doctors prioritize ventilators. The company’s coronavirus-specific systems are already used in China and Russia, and according to RADLogics will soon come into use in Europe. In the U.S., the system is currently undergoing advanced approval.

Blood tests in seclusion: a portable, AI-based device can perform a full blood count in minutes


Tel Aviv-based Sight Diagnostics Ltd. developed a device that enables quick blood tests and blood counts—a required part of the diagnosis protocol for every fever illness. While current technologies require the sample to be sent to a lab and processed by a technician, Sight’s device, which uses AI and machine processing tools, is portable and does not require prior knowledge to operate. It also provides results in minutes rather than hours or days.
These abilities make the device ideal for quarantined coronavirus patients. Last week, the Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer announced it will use the device to treat patients in isolation. Sight expects more clients to join in the next few weeks.

To treat severe cases: developing antibodies from patients who have recovered


Veteran biopharmaceutical company Kamada Ltd. has in recent days turned its attention to developing coronavirus antibodies. The company is collecting blood and plasma from Israelis who have recovered from the virus, and using a purification process to achieve a specific concentration of antibodies for treating serious coronavirus cases. The company emphasizes that it is not a vaccine, but rather an expensive, one-off treatment for severe cases.
Like a vaccine, however, the development process is lengthy, meaning the product will not be available anytime soon. Kamada has successfully developed serums for the treatment of rabies and zika, and is currently working with health authorities to create an expedited avenue for coronavirus treatment.
Remote experts: a system that enables consultation with a remote control center

Predictive care startup Clew Medical Ltd. developed an algorithm that collects data from emergency care monitoring devices and alerts the medical team to any deterioration in a patient’s condition. As the healthcare system becomes more and more burdened, Clew’s technology could point out a patient in danger 6-12 hours before their condition starts to worsen, enabling caregivers to prepare in advance.
The system can also monitor patients in remote wards, transmitting information to a central control room staffed by experts who can then provide guidance to endpoint teams. In this way, small hospitals and makeshift care units can benefit from the support of experts.
Clew’s system is currently in investigative use in U.S. hospitals. The company told Calcalist its use in Israeli hospitals currently dealing with the virus is being considered.
Monitoring patients in home-quarantine: a contactless system that monitors breathing

Israel-based company EarlySense Ltd. has developed a non-invasive patient-monitoring system already in use in nursing homes and hospitals. The system has been approved in both the U.S. and Europe. The company’s contactless monitoring platform, which looks like a cutting board, is placed under the mattress and takes stock of a patient’s /vitals around the clock, 100 times a minute.
The system specializes in analyzing chest movements, dividing them into separate categories of breathing patterns that are then used to identify changes in a patient’s condition. The fact that the system is not attached to patients and can provide alerts remotely makes it ideal for preventing the spread of infectious diseases like coronavirus, the company said, and it is already in use at Sheba. The company stated the system can also be used to track asymptomatic carriers in home-quarantine.Identify the most vulnerable: the study that looked into what makes some people more resistant to the virus

Tel Aviv-based Geneyx Genomex Ltd. developed a cloud-based genetic data bank that is used by universities and research institutes to identify genetic risk or resistance factors for various medical conditions. The company is now conducting a study that will compare severe and mild coronavirus cases to find out whether certain genetic mutations increase or decrease response to the virus.

Currently, hospitals in Israel, China, and Italy have signed on as participants in the study, and Geneyx intends to partner with other hospitals that are currently treating coronavirus cases, providing them with a collaborative data management system. After enough samples have been gathered, cases will be categorized—for example, according to the severity of symptoms—and the DNA sequencing process will start. The company also intends to create a database that will map sensitivity to the virus, to give caregivers a predictive advantage.
The article was published on Calcalis tech

In surreal scenes, Knesset sworn in 3 members at a time amid virus crisis

‘Give this people a government,’ pleads president in speech to near- empty chamber; Likud’s Tzachi Hanegbi arrives to take oath despite exposure to suspected COVID-19 patient

In a surreal ceremony, the 23rd Knesset convened on Monday in the shadow of the COVID-19 outbreak, with its 120 lawmakers inducted in batches of three to avoid the spread of the virus and its leaders giving their usually festive opening remarks to an empty hall.

President Reuven Rivlin opened the parliament swearing-in with an address to the only three lawmakers present — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein.

In his speech, Rivlin implored the political parties to resolve their differences and form a coalition, putting an end to the deadlock that has left the country without a functioning government since December 2018.

Earlier in the day, Rivlin had given Gantz first shot at forming a government, after the Blue and White leader picked up recommendations from 61 of the Knesset’s 120 lawmakers. But it remained unclear whether Gantz could successfully do so without Netanyahu’s Likud.

After three consecutive elections, Rivlin said Israelis are “exhausted” by politics.

“We are looking forward to the day-to-day, the routine, when we will all return to what we have in common, our shared fate that is expressed so clearly in the current crisis,” he said, referring to the outbreak of the virus.

The president pleaded with the political leaders to compromise.

“Politics is far from perfect. But politics is meant to be the art of the possible. Often, politics needs to be the art of compromise… At the heart of democracy lies the understanding that what often creates the requirement for compromise, to make deep and painful concessions, is the will of the people itself,” he said.

Rivlin continued: “The current political crisis is very real, very deep and is breaking us in two. And we still have no other choice, because we have no other people and no other country. In democracy, we may be able to replace the leadership, but we cannot replace the people. Not some of it, not one half of it and not the other half of it. We were destined to live together.”

Edelstein, who on Sunday blocked an attempt by Blue and White to replace him as Knesset speaker, also told the president, Netanyahu, and Gantz that an emergency unity government must swiftly  be formed.

“The plenum is empty, but with us are the millions of citizens who badly need an emergency government,” said Edelstein.

After Edelstein, Netanyahu and Gantz took their oaths, the other lawmakers were brought in, three at a time and in alphabetical order, to be sworn in.

The Knesset guard administered fever checks for those entering parliament.

According to Channel 12, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi was asked not to attend after being exposed to the husband of a coronavirus patient, who is also suspected of having contracted the virus.

But Hanegbi entered parliament nonetheless. Hanegbi later said he stayed in his office after arriving at the Knesset and kept a distance from other people when he was sworn in. After taking his oath, he left the Knesset.

Along with Blue and White MKs Ram Ben-Barak and Alon Shuster, Hanegbi had been at an agricultural conference where a man whose wife is confirmed to have the virus was present. Neither Ben-Barak or Shuster was at the swearing-in ceremony.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Austrian parliament urges chancellor clamp down on Hezbollah

Call for EU to reassess how to deal with terrorist entity regarding security of Israel


With 99% of votes counted, right-wing bloc at 58 seats, 3 shy of majority

As double envelopes are tallied and updated, Likud climbs to 36 and Blue and White to 33, at expense of Joint List and Shas: results could fluctuate further

Officials count ballots from the elections at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Officials count ballots from the elections at the Knesset in Jerusalem, March 4, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

As votes cast in so-called double envelopes in the Knesset elections were being tallied, the Central Election Committee updated the count Wednesday morning, giving Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the centrist rival Blue and White led by Benny Gantz an extra seat apiece, leaving the premier’s bloc of right-wing supporters at 58 seats.

After 99% of the votes were tallied, Likud gained a seat for a total of 36, with the rival Blue and White party also increasing its power from 32 to 33.

The Joint List of predominantly Arab parties dropped from 16 seats to 15, while the ultra-Orthodox Shas party dropped from 10 seats to 9.

The rest of the parties’ seat totals remained the same: seven for United Torah Judaism (UTJ), seven for Yisrael Beytenu, seven for Labor-Gesher-Meretz and six for Yamina.

Based on those seat totals, Likud and its allies would have 58 seats combined. The right-wing religious bloc supporting Netanyahu — consisting of Likud, Shas, UTJ and Yamina — though, falls short of the 61 seats needed to form a government.

NON-FINAL ELECTION RESULTS BASED ON COUNT OF 99% OF VOTES3636333315159977777766LikudBlue and WhiteJoint ListShasUnited Torah JudaismYisrael BeytenuLabor-Gesher-MeretzYamina010203040
Knesset blocs based on count of 99% of votes58584040151577Right-wing blocCenter-leftJoint ListYisrael Beytenu

The counting of the “double envelope” ballots of soldiers, police staff, diplomats, handicapped citizens, hospital patients and staff, and prisoners began overnight and was expected to conclude later in the day.

Final but unofficial results were likely to be published Wednesday night. The official results will only be published on March 10.

The Central Elections Committee announced late Tuesday that almost all of the votes cast in the elections had been tallied, with votes from 10,552 polling places across the country counted — 99% of the voting stations that were open during Monday’s elections, accounting for about 93% of the total vote.

Elections officials record ballots cast by Israelis under coronavirus quarantine, March 3, 2020. (Courtesy/Central Elections Committee)

Late Tuesday, hazmat-clad officials also unsealed and counted ballots cast by Israelis who could be carrying the coronavirus.

Some 4,076 Israelis under quarantine cast votes Monday in specially constructed isolation voting booths manned by medics in protective gear doubling as election officials.

Before the tally began, the Blue and White party claimed Netanyahu had ordered observers from his Likud party at the committee to interfere in the count. Gantz ordered his own party’s representatives to the committee to intensify their observation efforts as a result, according to the party.

“MK Avi Nissenkorn, the faction chairman, has now been called to oversee from up close the work of the Central Elections Committee to ensure the counting is carried out properly and without intentional disruptions,” Blue and White said in a statement.

Blue and White did not provide any evidence to back up its claim against Netanyahu.

A composite image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Gantz at polling stations in Jerusalem and Rosh Haayin, respectively, during the Knesset elections on March 2, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL, AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Monday’s election was largely seen as a referendum on Netanyahu, who will go on trial later this month for bribery, fraud and breach of trust but is thought to be seeking support for a legislative mechanism to grant him immunity.

Despite a jubilant victory party and proclamations of victory from supporters, exit polling and the non-final result numbers showed he would likely come up shy of a needed 61-seat majority.

Gantz admitted to supporters early Tuesday that the party’s showing was disappointing, but refused to concede. He later appeared to rule out joining a unity government led by Netanyahu, narrowing the premier’s options to form a coalition.

Netanyahu could attempt to bring in the secularist Yisrael Beytenu, which looks set to once again play kingmaker. He’ll be helped by the prospect of continued deadlock and a fourth election, seen as a doomsday scenario, but one that is increasingly realistic.

Yisrael Beytenu party leader Avigdor Liberman speaks at the party headquarters in Modi’in, on elections night, March 2, 2020. (Sraya Diamant/ Flash90)

Party head Avigdor Liberman vowed Monday he would not join a Likud-led government that includes ultra-Orthodox parties, but he has also refused to join a coalition with the Arab-led Joint List.

“We won’t move a millimeter from what we promised our voters,” he said.

Likud lawmakers and Netanyahu’s spokesman said Tuesday they would be looking to bring in “deserters” from other parties to make up the shortfall.

Likud spokesman Yonatan Urich told Channel 13 of contacts with “four to six” MKs from “the other side” and predicted that Netanyahu would be able to form a majority coalition with the support of some of them “within a few days.”

MK Miki Zohar admitted that if Likud was left needing to bring more than two lawmakers from other parties, it would be far more difficult for Netanyahu to form a coalition; however, he said he remained confident of forming a government even in that scenario and preventing a fourth round of elections.

Blue and White MKs Zvi Hauser and Yoaz Hendel, both former aides to Netanyahu and members of the Telem faction within the party, have denied reports they were mulling joining Likud.

However Hendel told Channel 12 news that he thought the country needed a unity government to move forward. When asked if that included joining a prime minister on trial, he said no.

Blue and White MK Omer Yankelevich also denied she could jump ship after a report said Likud threatened to publish embarrassing recordings of her if she doesn’t defect.

MK Orly Levy-Abekasis, who heads the Gesher faction in the Labor-Gesher-Meretz alliance, has also been tipped as a possibility to switch sides in return for a cabinet portfolio.

The article was published on Times of Israel


Israelis head for elections, once again, with less feeling

So they vote. this time not happily, not with great enthusiasm, not eagerly, but they vote.
Armed with their signature cynicism and decidedly low expectations, the people of Israel flocked back to polls on Monday for the third time in 11 months.

They grumbled, they mumbled, and they complained. They voted before a family outing, and after shopping at the mall; after breakfast, and before dinner. Once again they shlepped in babies in carriages, and brought along small children on their way to an excursion.

They kvetched, but they voted. And they came out in numbers that put other countries – such as America, which hasn’t had more than 60% of the population vote in a presidential election since 1968 — to shame.

Why? Because the bottom line is that most people here do care – despite all the cynicism – who governs the land, even though they might loudly declare that they don’t really care, that all the politicians are the same, and that it doesn’t matter who forms the government.

And they voted because most people want their voice to be heard.

It’s a small country, Israel. Decisions made at the top are felt intimately by people below – for instance, whether to attack in the Gaza Strip and send ground troops there, whether to uproot an illegal outpost in Samaria, whether to extract gas from the ocean floor and process it near the Haifa coast. People want to have some kind of minimal impact on how those decisions will be made, as those decisions may impact them in a very personal and immediate way.

So they vote. This time not happily, not with great enthusiasm, not eagerly, but they vote.

Although much has been written about how these back-to-back-to-back elections are chipping away at the belief of Israelis in the system, the fact that well over 66% of the people continue to vote here election after election shows that – deep down – they still believe in the process. Otherwise they would not participate. People vote if they care. And most people in this country do care.

Which doesn’t mean that things didn’t feel a bit different this time in the country’s polling places. They did. The conversation and jokes among those waiting in lines were different than in the past.

First there were the jokes and conversations about the coronavirus. “The special places for people quarantined to vote won’t help, since all the voting slips are contaminated,” one man quipped at a polling place outside of Jerusalem. Another noted that the son of someone in quarantine was waiting in line, and said to take cover if he sneezes.

But most of the chatter had to do with the seemingly endless election loop.

“Here we go again,” one woman said to a neighbor standing in line. “Yes,” the neighbor replied, adding sardonically – in reference to the possibility of a fourth round of voting in a few months time – “See you back here in September.”

The article was published on the JPost

Trump’s peace plan: 2 states with settlement recognition

Trump’s 80- page peace p;an calls for Palestinian state with parts of East Jerusalem as capital; major Jewish settlements in West Bank to remain under Israeli control; demilitarization of Hamas in Gaza

President Donald Trump called for the creation of a State of Palestine, ending speculation as to whether his administration, in preparing the Middle East peace plan without input from Palestinian leaders, would abandon a “two-state resolution” to the conflict. The potential future state will include parts East Jerusalem as its capital but only if the Palestinians take steps to become self-governing.

Senior administration officials, briefing the media on the plan the president announced at the White House on Tuesday, said that under Trump’s proposal the United States will recognize Israeli settlements on the West Bank. In exchange, Israel would agree to accept a four-year freeze on new settlement activity while Palestinian statehood is negotiated.

הבית הלבן

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu
(Photo: AP)
However, it was not immediately clear if the freeze could be extended if a final deal is not concluded in the four-year time period allocated for its implementation.
Trump held a special press conference together with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu where he unveiled the details of the long-delayed proposal, dubbed “the deal of the century.” The president said the prime minister told him the Trump administration’s proposed plan would be a basis for direct negotiations.
“Today, Israel has taken a giant step toward peace,” Trump said at a White House event. “Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu informed me that he is willing to endorse the vision as the basis for direct negotiations – and, I will say, (opposition leader Benny Gantz) also endorsed and very strongly – with the Palestinians a historic breakthrough.”
Trump has also endorsed a proposed map outlining the two states, which he posted on his Twitter account. The Palestinian state would be double the size of land that Palestinians currently control and would be connected by roads, bridges and tunnels.
The proposed state would be entirely demilitarized, including the Gaza Strip, controlled by Hamas terrorist organization, with a large presence of Iranian-backed Islamic Jihad.
“The state of Israel suffers from extraordinary geostrategic challenges,” said the peace plan’s official document. “Simply put the State of Israel has no margin for error. As dangerous as Gaza, run by Hamas, is to the State of Israel’s safety, a similar regime controlling the West Bank would pose an existential threat to the State of Israel.”
In addition, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would be connected by a tunnel passing through Israeli territory.

Conceptual map of Israel-Palestine as proposed in Trump peace plan

Conceptual map of Israel-Palestine as proposed in Trump peace plan
(Photo: Twitter)
The plan does call for a four-year freeze in new Israeli settlement construction, during which time details of a comprehensive agreement would be negotiated, according to the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of Trump’s announcement. However, it was not immediately clear if the freeze could be extended if a final deal is not concluded in the four years.
Trump went on to say he sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, where the U.S. president promised if the Palestinian leadership chooses to accept the plan, the Americans as well as the other countries “will be there every step of the way to help.”
“It’s going to work,” Trump said. “If they do this, it will work. Your response to this historic opportunity will show the world to what extent you are ready to lead the Palestinian people to statehood.”

הבית הלבן

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu
(Photo: AP)
“This is a historic day,” Netanyahu said, comparing Trump’s peace plan to former President Harry Truman’s 1948 recognition of the state of Israel. “On this day, you became the first world leader to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over areas in Judea and Samaria that are vital to our security and central to our heritage,” he added, using the Biblical names for the West Bank.
He said he is ready to enter the negotiations with the Palestinians on the basis of the peace proposal, calling it “a realistic path to a durable peace.” He added that Trump’s plan “strikes a balance.”
“And on this day, you too have charted a brilliant future, a brilliant future for Israelis, Palestinians and the region,” Netanyahu said.
The prime minister added that Trump recognizes that Israel must have sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and other places “where it can defend itself, by itself.”
Netanyahu added that Palestinian refugees won’t have a right of return under the plan. Palestinian right of return is a political position that Palestinian refugees, both first-generation refugees and their descendants, have a right to return to what now is the State of Israel.
“I know that there’ll be opposition,” Netanyahu said. “There’s always opposition. I know there will be many obstacles along the way, much criticism. But we have an old Jewish saying: ‘If not now, when? And if not us, who?'”
Both leaders then thanked the Gulf Arab states of Oman, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for sending their ambassadors to the attend the conference for the unveiling of the peace plan.

הבית הלבן

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu
(Photo: AFP)
Once the press conference was over, Netanyahu clarified to the reporters that the proposed Palestinian capital would be located in Abu Dis, a neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He said the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, “by which I mean, within its fences,” an apparent reference to municipal boundaries.
The 50-page political outline goes further in concessions to the Palestinians than many analysts had believed was likely. However, it would require them to accept conditions they have been previously unwilling to consider, such as accepting West Bank settlements. It builds on a 30-page economic plan for the West Bank and Gaza that was unveiled last June and which the Palestinians have also rejected.
The officials said that both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main political challenger in March elections, Benny Gantz, had signed off on the plan. Netanyahu will be beside Trump as he unveils the plan at the White House.
The event comes as Trump’s impeachment trial continues in the Senate and Israel’s parliament had planned a hearing to discuss Netanyahu’s request for immunity from criminal corruption charges. Netanyahu withdrew that request hours before the proceedings were to begin, but Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, is still expected to meet. The body had been likely to vote against immunity, dealing Netanyahu a blow.
In the run-up to the March 2 election, Netanyahu has called for annexing parts of the West Bank and imposing Israeli sovereignty on all its settlements there.

פלסטינים שורפים תמונה של טראמפ ונתניהו ברמאללה

Images of Trump and Netanyahu being burned in Ramallah during unveiling of peace plan
Security responsibility for the West Bank would remain in Israel’s hands for the foreseeable future but could be scaled back as the nascent Palestinian state builds its capacity, under the terms of the plan, which says that statehood will be contingent on the Palestinians meeting international governance criteria.
The Palestinians see the West Bank as the heartland of a future independent state and east Jerusalem as their capital. Most of the international community supports their position, but Trump has reversed decades of U.S. foreign policy by siding more blatantly with Israel. The centerpiece of his strategy was recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the American Embassy there. He’s also closed Palestinian diplomatic offices in Washington and cut funding to Palestinian aid programs.
Those policies have proven popular among Trump’s evangelical and pro-Israel supporters and could give him a much-needed boost from his base as he gears up for a reelection battle this year.
But the Palestinians refuse to even speak to Trump and they are calling on support from Arab leaders. The Palestinian leadership also has encouraged protests in the West Bank, raising fears that the announcement in Washington could spark a new round of violence.

Winter Bootcamp for Pro-Israel Activists

On 1-2 December the Europe Israel Public Affairs and our partners- European Jewish Association (EJA) hosted our second Bootcamp for pro-Jewish and Pro-Israel advocates from all over Europe (literally! From Iceland to Spain, France to Romania and everywhere in between).

With practical training at its heart, this latest bootcamp gave participants proper hands-on experience in Lobbying techniques, media relations, opposition watch and network building.

Day one was focused on facts and lobbying. Ben Dror Yemini, the prominent Israeli journalist and author (his book “the industry of lies” is on the shelf of any self-respecting Israel advocate) gave the team all the facts (“I’m not a pr man”, he proudly exclaimed, I just give people the facts) necessary to counter opposition arguments.

We then spent the rest of the day dealing with the practicals of Lobbying. Our Head of Eu Institutional Relations, Ruth Isaac and our Director of Public Affairs ran through the do-and don’t’s, and were delighted to be supported by former Portuguese MEP Paulo Casaca who gave his experience of being on the receiving end of lobbyists, and lastly by new Belgian MP Michael Freilich, who gave his enlightening perspectives from “the other side of the desk” including invaluable advice and tips on effective lobbying.

At a Gala dinner in the evening, Hans Knopp was our special guest. Hans is a hugely respected dutch journalist whose most famous bit of reporting was exposing a dutch war criminal who helped the Nazis rob and murder Dutch Jews. His work was commemorated in a film “the body collector”, and he talked about his experience. His moving testimony brought the house down and he received a prolonged standing ovation.

The next morning, participants learned the basics of press release writing, followed by a role play and live interview practice with Brussels based broadcast journalist and regular on Euronews Brian Maguire who put the bootcampers through their paces.

After lunch prominent Swedish Zionist and activist Saskia Pantell , CIDI’s dutch opposition watch hero Hidde Van Koningsveld and our very onw campaigns officer Dafna Friedman shared their knowledge and expertise on opposition watching.

We then finished with an open session with Ben Dror again on the challenges in messaging before a closing panel with Ruth and our head of Strategy Tal Rabina on Network building.

Tired but fired up our advocates (many are soon to be members of the EJA’s inaugural Diplomatic Corps), left for home. Our next bootcamp is already being planned. If you want to be part of it, let us know.   


Likud leadership primaries kick off

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his key rival within Likud party ranks, former Education and Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar, are set to face off in Likud primaries on Thursday.

Some 116,048 members of Likud will vote at 106 polling stations across the country from 9 am local time to set the stage for a showdown that makes for the most serious challenge to Netanyahu’s Likud leadership in years.
The polling stations will remain open until 11 pm amid fears that wind and rain could keep voter turnout down, with the preliminary results expected sometime past midnight.
A former aide and senior Cabinet minister under Netanyahu, Sa’ar has long been considered a rising star in Likud and a potential future heir, but while others are patiently waiting for Netanyahu to step down on his own, Sa’ar has been the only one who has dared to take the incumbent head-on.
Netanyahu is expected to brush off Sa’ar’s challenge for the Likud leadership, with Israeli media estimating Sa’ar’s chances to unseat Netanyahu are slim.
Sa’ar’s allies will consider a result of over 30% support of Likud members as a win, positioning their candidate to lead the party when Netanyahu steps down.
However, after failing to build up a coalition in two consecutive votes, Netanyahu’s capacity to form a government in the wake of the third vote cannot be taken for granted.
Netanyahu faces charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust in three corruption cases in which he is accused of trading legislative or regulatory favors in exchange for lavish gifts or favorable media coverage.
He denies any wrongdoing and has waged an angry campaign against the media and law enforcement officials that he said are bent on ousting him from office.
Outwardly, Likud members have strongly supported their leader and joined in denouncing the alleged “coup” of the liberal elites against him.
Even amid the political disarray, Sa’ar’s challenge is a risky maneuver in a party that fiercely values loyalty and has had only four leaders in its 70-plus-year history. Netanyahu himself has denounced Sa’ar as “subversive.”
Netanyahu said on Wednesday that he “certainly” plans to annex the Jordan Valley in the near future, despite recent reports suggesting plans have entered a “deep freeze” over concerns that the move could potentially intensify confrontation with the International Criminal Court.
The ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced on Friday she is ready to investigate whether Israel was committing war crimes in the Palestinian Territories.
Netanyahu in a rare interview conducted with Israel’s Army Radio said, “I intend to lead for American recognition of our sovereignty in the Jordan Valley and in all the settlements in the West Bank, as I have led the recognition of the Golan Heights and Jerusalem, Israel’s capital.”
The premier added that there’s a legal hurdle for annexation during an interim government, “but G-d willing, I will do it when I get elected” – referring to the next general vote in March.
Israel’s longest-serving premier also talked about his relationship with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. According to Netanyahu, Putin told him that “if it wasn’t for you and our relationship, we could have been already at war, in confrontation.”
Netanyahu disclosed that Israel Air Force jets were close to colliding with Russian aircraft on four separate occasions, most likely over Syrian territory, but thanks to close coordination between the armies, these incidents did not occur.
Regarding reports of Netanyahu’s intention to request immunity from the Israeli parliament, he remained tight-lipped, with the deadline for such a request to be submitted expiring next week.
Netanyahu also appeared Wednesday at an election event in the southern city of Ashkelon as rocket fire was launched from the Gaza Strip.
The sirens warning of the incoming rocket fire blared at around 9 pm in Ashkelon and other communities bordering the Hamas-controlled enclave.
IDF said that the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted a projectile fired at southern Israel. No damage or casualties were reported.
Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, were campaigning in Ashkelon ahead of Thursday’s leadership primaries.
The prime minister was immediately rushed to safety by his security team, a scene reminiscent of a September incident in the city of Ashdod.
“Hamas and Jihad do not want me to win,” Netanyahu said after being allowed back on stage. “The one who tried to make an impression the last time, is no longer with us, and the one who tried to make an impression now should start packing the bags,” he said, referring to the Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu Al-Ata, who was assassinated by the Israeli military last month.
Three months ago, Netanyahu was evacuated during a rocket siren that blared mid-speech as the prime minister was rallying support a week before the September 17 national ballot.
At the time, Netanyahu’s quick departure off stage was widely criticized by his political opponents.
During the September incident, attendees of the event remained in the auditorium and did not run for shelter.
The winner of Thursday’s vote will lead Likud into Israel’s third general election in less than a year, slated for March 2, where he will face the chief of the Blue & White alliance Benny Gantz.
The article was published on Ynet

Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ Is Headed to Europe

Czech Republic is acquiring Israel’s famed ‘Iron Dome” Multi-Mission Radar in an agreement signed earlier this month. The agreement between the Israel Ministry of Defense and Czech Ministry of Defense will see at least eight ELM-2084 radars operational in Czech Republic in coming years as part of the country’s enhanced Mobile Air Defense Radar program.

This is an important $125 million sale because it represents Israel’s inroads into eastern Europe, especially the Visegrad Group of countries that are becoming increasing allies of  Jerusalem. This includes Hungary, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia. The radars will be delivered between 2021 and 2023 ad they will be interoperable with NATO command and control. The deal was in the works for years.

Prague joined NATO in 1999 and the Bush administration wanted to base interceptors and missile defense radar in Czech Republic. The deal was signed in 2008 but cancelled by the Obama administration as part of the administration’s reset with Russia in 2009 and other changes in policy. Czech Republic refused an offer to base early warning radar in the country in 2011 and went looking elsewhere.

By 2016 it appeared to have signaled that Israel’s radar was its favored choice. Although media reports had indicated that the previous negotiations with the US were about fears of Russian missiles, the larger picture was that Prague needed to modernize its air defense.

Israel’s Iron Dome, which uses the radar Czech Republic is acquiring, has been key to defending the country successfully since the 2012 war and been racking up more successes in the last two years as more than 2,600 rockets were fired by militants in Gaza. The US has even looked at the system for short range air defense (SHORAD).

Iron Dome is one of  Israel’s multi-layered radar that was developed with US support, including the David’s Sling and the Arrow. David’s Sling is similar to the Patriot system. The radars have air surveillance and air defense capabilities. Elta, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries in Israel makes the radar which was sold to Czech Republic.

Czech industries will conduct thirty percent of the procurement locally.

In Israel the agreement is seen as part of a close and strong relationship between the countries. Director of Israel’s International Defense Cooperation Directorate (SIBAT), Brig. Gen. (Ret.), Yair Kulas  said he applauded the agreement.

“Today is monumental for the State of Israel due to the history of  Czech support for the State of Israel, since its establishment 70 years ago. This agreement will deepen and strengthen the cooperation and relations with our Czech partners. It is an expression of confidence in the capabilities of the Israeli defense establishment and defense industries and highlights the significance of Israeli technology in the face of the threats shared by the international community. We hope to see this agreement opening the door for further cooperation with our Czech partners and with additional NATO states.”

IAI VP and CEO of ELTA, Yoav Tourgeman said that the “MADR program expands the global use of the ELM- 2084, known as the ‘Iron Dome’ system radar, which currently includes over 100 systems contracted worldwide (including NATO countries). We are proud and honored to supply the best combat proven multi-mission radar to the Czech armed forces. These radars will propel forward the Czech Air-force capabilities and enable to confront the most advanced aerial threats. We believe that the MADR program will pave the path to additional cooperation between the Israeli and Czech defense industries.”

Seth J. Frantzman is a Jerusalem-based journalist who holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum. He is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (forthcoming Gefen Publishing). Follow him on Twitter at @sfrantzman.

The article was published on The national Interest


Netanyahu, Benny Gantz to meet for coalition talks as third election looms

Leaders to meet at 5:30 P.M. as Liberman openly talks about joining narrow right-wing government.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Blue and White chairman Benny Gantz will meet Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Kirya in Tel Aviv.

Earlier Tuesday, Blue and White officials said their negotiating team would not meet again with Likud until they were ready for Gantz to go first in a rotation in the Prime Minister’s office.

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Likud responded that while Netanyahu has conceded in agreeing to serve for only five months, Blue and White had not conceded on anything.

Gantz has said that instead of Netanyahu going first as prime minister, he could be vice prime minister and laws could be passed enabling him to deal with his legal situation.

Next Wednesday is the last day for an MK to draft the support of 61 MKs and avoid a third election in under a year.

Yisrael Beytenu leader and possible coalition kingmaker Avigdor Liberman appeared to reconsider the formation of a right-wing government on Tuesday.

“I don’t know what is worse- a narrow government or election,” Liberman said.

Yisrael Beytenu MKs Oded Forer and Hamed Amar approached Liberman earlier Tuesday and told him they favored a right-wing government. Forer was apparently angry at Blue and White for conceding to United Torah Judaism MKs at a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee

The article was published on The JPost


Netherlands cuts aid to Palestinian Authority over terrorist salaries

Dutch government, which gives several millions of dollars a year to PA, says talks to end wages to those who carried out attacks on Israelis ‘did not lead to the desired outcome”

The Dutch government has cut funding for the Palestinian Authority over its salaries to terrorists serving time in Israeli jails.

The aid ministry announced the move Wednesday during annual budget talks.

In 2017, the Palestinian Authority paid about $198 million to a fund for the families of terrorists killed during their attacks and about $160 million to Palestinians being held in Israeli jails, according to Israeli Defense Ministry figures.

The Netherlands spends several million dollars each year on aid to the Palestinian Authority and Palestinian populations elsewhere in the Middle East but most of that money is given to agencies and nongovernmental organizations.

The country had given about $1.6 million directly to the Palestinian Authority annually to pay the salaries of justice ministry employees.

The aid ministry said that talks with the Palestinian body “did not lead to the desired outcome.”

Israel has long complained that the salaries encourage terror attacks.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


IDF kills Islamic Jihad leader in Gaza; rockets fired at central Israel

Bahaa Abu al-Atta killed in first targeted killing by Israel since 2014; Netanyahu says terror leader poised to launch attacks against country with support from Iran; schools cancelled across south, center

The Iranian-backed Palestinian group confirmed Tuesday morning that Abu al-Atta, its northern Gaza Strip commander had been killed and vowed to avenge his death.

The Gaza home in which Abu al-Atta was killed in an IDF strike

The Gaza home in which Abu al-Atta was killed in an IDF strike

The response was quick to come as dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza at southern and central Israel.

By 9am, the IDF said, 50 rockets had been fired from Gaza, of which the Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted approximately 20.

All educational institutions were to remain closed Tuesday in the south and center of Israel, and people in non-essential jobs were told to remain at home.

This is the first incident of targeted killing by Israel since the end of the 2014 Gaza conflict, Operation Protective Edge.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the Islamic Jihad commander was poised to launch imminent attacks against Israel.

Israelis crouch by the side of the road as sirens sound in Rishon Lezion (Photo: Hasifa)

Israelis crouch by the side of the road as sirens sound in Rishon Lezion (Photo: Hasifa)
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Blue and White leader Benny Gantz said in a tweet Tuesday morning that he supported the decision to target Abu al-Atta and that Israel’s security transcended politics.

“The battle against terrorism requires difficult decisions,” the former IDF chief said. “Blue and White places every proper action taken for the safety of Israel above politics. Every terrorist who endangers our security knows he is marked for death.”

Iron Dome intercepts Gaza rockets over Ashkelon (Photo: Reuters)

Iron Dome intercepts Gaza rockets over Ashkelon (Photo: Reuters)

The IDF released a statement confirming the attack was a coordinated effort by the military and the Shin Bet security service.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says a man and a woman were killed in the blast and two other people were wounded.

Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Atta

Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Atta

The airstrike damaged the half of the second and most of the third floors of a house in the Shejaeya neighborhood east of the city.

Israel media reported lately that Abu el-Atta was responsible for recent rocket attacks against southern Israel communities, instructed by Tehran.

The article was published on Ynet


Rina Shnerb’s Alleged Murderer Linked to European-Funded BDS Affiliates

Samer Arbid, a Palestinian from Ramallah arrested for allegedly leading a Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) terrorist cell responsible for the murder of 17-year-old Rina Shnerb had worked in a European-funded NGO linked to BDS, NGO Monitor reported on Wednesday.

44-year-old Arbid, who is one of PFLP’s officials in Ramallah, was previously arrested for involvement in terror activity during the Second Intifada under the direct command of the PFLP leadership, preparing explosive devices.

IDF and Border Police forces arrested Arbid on Sunday for allegedly setting up and detonating the improvised explosive device that killed Shnerb, wounding her father Eitan and her brother Dvir near the settlement of Dolev.

On Monday, Haaretz reported that the Justice Ministry opened an investigation into “potential wrongdoing” by officers of the Shin Bet (Israeli Security Agency) after Arbid was in critical condition in at Hadassah-University Medical Center following his interrogation. It was later reported that the Shin Bet officers received legal permission to conduct a ‘violent interrogation,’ but went “too far.”
Israeli media sources reported on Tuesday that the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) sent a letter to Attorney-General Avichai Mandelblit and numerous Knesset Members, demanding a criminal investigation be opened regarding Arbid’s Shin Bet interrogation. Joint List MKs have expressed their concerns over Shin Bet’s interrogation techniques, requesting the A-G look into torture claims following Arbid’s hospitalization.
According to the NGO Monitor, Arbid was listed as an accountant for Addameer (Arabic for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, a Palestinian NGO that provides legal representation to Palestinians detained in Israel.
Among Addameer’s goals are “ending torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted upon Palestinian prisoners,” and  “guaranteeing fair, impartial and public trials.” The organization was listed as a PFLP-‘affiliated institution’ on Fatah’s website in September 2015.
According to NGO Monitor, Addameer has received funding from numerous EU members and European government institutions, including the Heinrich Böll Foundation, Irish Aid, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Basque Government and the Municipality of Barcelona, among others.
Arbid has also worked for the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC), which was also identified by Fatah as a PFLP affiliate.  It was also identified by USAID as the Popular Front’s “agricultural arm,” and described by academic scholar Glenn E. Robinson as an organization established by “agronomics loosely affiliated with the PFLP.”
The UAWC also receives funding from European states and institutions, including Grassroots International, the UN OCHA, and the Dutch and Norwegian governments, according to NGO Monitor. Since 2016, the UAWC has received nearly NOK 39 million ($4.3M) from Norwegian People’s Aid and more than €8 million ($8.7M) from the Netherlands.
In 2017-2021, the Netherlands’ Representative Office in Ramallah is granting the organization $11.3 million to “implement the second phase of the Land and Water Resource Management program.”
“For years, we have been warning about the phenomenon of European governmental support for Palestinian civil-society organizations linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an internationally-designated terror-group,” said Professor Gerald Steinberg, founder and President of NGO Monitor. “This week’s announcement makes clear that the PFLP remains active and deadly.”
“Years of NGO Monitor research shows that Addameer, which advocates itself on behalf of PFLP terrorists, plays an integral role in the PFLP-NGO network,” Steinberg said. “Our reports on the group, which previously identified Arbid by name, leave no doubt that European governments and UN agencies should immediately cease funding Addameer and launch a thorough investigation of how taxpayers’ funds were disbursed to a group with a clear, terror-linked record.”
Since the early 2000s, both Addameer and UAWC have shown deep ties to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, having signed a petition to “isolate Apartheid Israel…forging effective solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, self-determination and sovereignty.”
In 2014, Addameer and UAWC, alongside other Palestinian civil movements and NGOs, signed a joint call to action against the “apartheid wall,” stating “it is time for a ‘legal intifada,’ an intensified struggle and more boycotts, divestment and sanctions.” The organizations have endorsed the BDS movement, calling upon the public to “expand and deepen the global BDS movement for justice.”
The article was published on the JPost

Delegitimization of Israel: The Acceptable Face of Anti-Semitism

Yesterday afternoon, and speaking to a standing room only Committee room in the European Parliament courtesy of our Co-sponsors Anna Michelle Asimakapolou MEP, Anna Fotyga MEP and Traian Basescu MEP. The Minister, joined by the EU’s Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting anti-semitism Katharina Von Schnurbein, and again by Secretary Carr and Rabbi Margolin outlined their concern at the rise of antisemitism and at rooting out the boycott movement as fundamentally anti-semitic. There followed a q&a with a distinguished audience of parliamentarians, diplomats and Jewish leaders and orgnasiations from across the continent.


Party leaders across spectrum have common message as they cast ballots: Go vote!

Party leaders turned out early Tuesday to cast their votes in Israel’s second national election of the year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara arrived at their Jerusalem polling station to cast their vote in the Israeli elections Tuesday.

בנימין נתניהו מצביע בקלפי בירושלים

Vying for a fifth term the prime minister said this is a very close election and called on citizens to come out and vote.

This is the second election held in Israel in less than six months after Netanyahu, who is hoping for an unprecedented fifth term in office, failed to form a coalition government after the April ballot.

His Likud party then pushed through a law to dissolve the Knesset, thereby avoiding a situation in which President Reuven Rivlin could task another party leader with coalition building.

The head of the Blue and White Party Benny Gantz voted close to his home in Rosh Haayin, near Tel Aviv.

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz casts his vote (Photo: Tal Shahar)

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz casts his vote (Photo: Tal Shahar)
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The former army chief wished Israelis good luck in the elections as he arrived at the polling station flanked by supporters.

Avigdor Liberman, the leader of the right-wing, secular Yisrael Beytenu party – who could emerge as the kingmaker of the elections – voted with his wife at his home in the West Bank settlement of Nokdim.

Liberman urges all Israelis to vote, calling it “a civic duty.”

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman and wife Ella (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Yisrael Beiteinu leader Avigdor Liberman and wife Ella (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Shaked also called on citizens to vote and claimed there are up to 30% voters still undecided.

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked (Photo: Shuel Davidpur)

Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked (Photo: Shuel Davidpur)

In the city of Sderot, near the Gaza border, Labor-Gesher chief Amir Peretz told supporters as he arrived to cast his ballot, that every vote counts and everyone should vote.

Labor leader Amir Peretz ( Photo: Avi Roccah)

Labor leader Amir Peretz ( Photo: Avi Roccah)

Voter turnout may be the deciding factor in these elections though it is expected to be low.

The article was published on Ynet


Poll: Israel’s foreign relations are a success

Most Israelis think that Israel has succeeded in its diplomatic activities in the US, Europe and the Arab countries.

A public opinion poll conducted by the Rafi Smith Institute ahead of the elections to the 22nd Knesset examined how the public sees the outgoing government’s performance on major foreign policy issues.

77% of respondents thought that the State of Israel was successful in its relations with the US, while only 12% thought it failed. 47% of respondents said that relations with Europe are also successful and 33% thought that the policy vis-à-vis the EU has failed.

On the issue of relations between Israel and Arab states, 46% of respondents say that government policy was successful and only 35% think it failed.

When asked about Israeli-Palestinian Arab relations, only 17% think government policy was successful and 65% thought it was unsuccessful.

The poll also found that 12% of those surveyed preferred to see Yair Lapid as Foreign Minister. He is followed by Binyamin Netanyahu with 9% and far behind them is Naftali Bennett with 4%, Gideon Sa’ar with 4%, Avigdor Liberman with 3.5%, and Yisrael Katz with 3%. However, 40% of the respondents replied that they did not have a clear opinion as to who should serve in that role.

Another question that arose in the survey was about the decline in the status of the Foreign Ministry and whether it was detrimental to Israel’s national security. 26% answered that there was no decline in the status of the ministry, and 9% claimed that there was a decline, but this did not compromise national security. A similar number stated that even if there was a decline in the status of the ministry, it has done very little damage to national security. Another 30% opined that alongside the decline in status, there has also been a great deal of devaluation of national security.

The article was published on Arutz 7


Uranium traces found at Iran ‘atomic warehouse’: diplomats – Gulf tensions

The International Atomic Energy Agency is investigating the particles’ origin and has asked Iran to explain the traces. But Tehran has not done so, according to the diplomats.

Sunday, September 8

Traces of uranium found at secret warehouse

Samples taken by the UN nuclear watchdog at what Israel’s prime minister called a “secret atomic warehouse” in Tehran showed traces of uranium that Iran has yet to explain, two diplomats who follow the agency’s inspections work closely say.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is investigating the particles’ origin and has asked Iran to explain the traces. But Tehran has not done so, according to the diplomats, stoking tensions between Washington and Tehran.

In a speech a year ago Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who vehemently opposed the deal, called on the IAEA to visit the site immediately, saying it had housed 15 kg (33 lb) of unspecified radioactive material that had since been removed.

Reuters first reported in April that the IAEA, which is policing the nuclear deal, had inspected the site – a step it had said it takes “only when necessary” – and environmental samples taken there were sent off for analysis.

Israeli and US media have since reported that the samples turned up traces of radioactive material or matter – the same vague language used by Netanyahu.

Those traces were, however, of uranium, the diplomats said – the same element Iran is enriching and one of only two fissile elements with which one can make the core of a nuclear bomb.
One diplomat said the uranium was not highly enriched, meaning it was not purified to a level anywhere close to that needed for weapons.

“There are lots of possible explanations,” that diplomat said. But since Iran has not yet given any to the IAEA it is hard to verify the particles’ origin, and it is also not clear whether the traces are remnants of material or activities that predate the landmark 2015 deal or more recent, diplomats say.

The IAEA did not respond to a request for comment.
Iranian officials were not available to comment.

US will continue to impose sanctions

The United States will continue to impose sanctions on whoever purchases Iran’s oil or conducts business with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and no oil waivers will be re-issued, a US official told Reuters on Sunday.

“We will continue to put pressure on Iran and as President (Trump) said there will be no waivers of any kind for Iran’s oil,” said Sigal Mandelker, US Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.

Mandelker added that Iranian oil sales have taken a “serious nose dive” because of US pressure.

Detained British tanker may be released ‘soon’

Iran may soon release a detained British tanker after the completion of legal steps, state television reported on Sunday.

“I hope the procedures will be completed soon and this tanker will be released,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi told the station.

The state television also reported that Mousavi said an Iranian tanker “has gone to its destination” and “the oil has been sold.

“The Adrian Darya oil tanker finally docked on the Mediterranean coast ..and unloaded its cargo,” IRNA quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman, Abbas Mousavi, as saying.

Iran says Europe failing to save nuclear deal

The head of Iran’s nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, said the European Union has so far failed to carry out its commitments under the 2015 deal, which promised relief from trade sanctions in return for curbing the country’s nuclear program.

Salehi said the EU “was supposed to fill the vacuum” in enforcing the deal, but “unfortunately they could not.” He said compliance with the deal is not a “one-way road.

“Unfortunately the European parties have failed to fulfil their commitments…The deal is not a one-way street and Iran will act accordingly as we have done so far by gradually downgrading our commitments,” said Salehi said, speaking after meeting the acting head of the US nuclear watchdog (IAEA), Cornel Feruta.

“Iran will continue to reduce its nuclear commitments as long as the other parties fail to carry out their commitments.”

Feruta, Zarif meet 

Feruta, also met Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Sunday who said Iran’s reduction of commitments under its 2015 nuclear deal were allowed under the accord, according to reports by the semi-official Fars news agency.

Zarif said that Iran was acting under paragraph 36 of the accord, Fars reported. Iranian officials say the paragraph allows one party to the deal to cut its commitments if others do not live up to theirs.

Feruta reiterated that IAEA would carry out its verification activities in a “professional and impartial” manner, Fars added.

The IAEA’s 35-nation Board of Governors will discuss Iran at a quarterly meeting that begins on Monday.

The article was posted on TRT world


Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins gold at World Championships

‘I never stopped believing,’ says gold medalist who dominated throughout under 81kg competition, besting Belgium’s Matthias Casse in final to become Israel’s first male world champion; Egyptian competitor refuses to shake his hand after their quarter-final match

Sagi Muki celebrates his gold medal win in Tokyo (Photo: Getty Images)

Sagi Muki celebrates his gold medal win in Tokyo (Photo: Getty Images)
A few minutes later, he stepped onto the winners podium at the Nippon Budokan Arena in Tokyo and sang along as the Israeli national anthem “Hatikva” played.

Judoka Sagi Muki and his coach Oren Smadja hold the Israeli flag after his World Championship win (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

Judoka Sagi Muki and his coach Oren Smadja hold the Israeli flag after his World Championship win (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

The 27-year-old is the first Israeli male to win the prestigious title. This is his first world title after having won gold twice at the European Championships in 2015 and 2018.

Sagi Muki holds up his gold medal at the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

Sagi Muki holds up his gold medal at the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Oren Aharoni)

The Netanya-born athlete faced six opponents on his journey to the gold medal and showed complete dominance after beating most of them by Ippon. His Egyptian quarter-final opponent Mohammed Abdelaal refused to shake his hand after having lost their match.

Sagi Muki during his winning final match (Photo: Reuters)

Sagi Muki during his winning final match (Photo: Reuters)

After the competition, the new world champion told reporters in Tokyo that he never lost faith he could win, but conceded that his semi-final bout “was a very hard fight.”

“I came close to losing but I gave it everything and I never stopped believing. I’m glad I managed to keep up the pressure,” he said.

“This is my first time (as world champion) and it’s a very special moment for me,” he said. “I finally did it. It was a tough day.”

Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Reuters)

Israeli judoka Sagi Muki wins the World Championships in Tokyo (Photo: Reuters)

Muki also paid tribute to his fellow Israelis who travelled to the compeition to support him and his teammates.

Sagi Muki's parents watch as he wins the gold medal in Tokyo (Photo: Yair Sagi)

Sagi Muki’s parents watch as he wins the gold medal in Tokyo (Photo: Yair Sagi)

“Judo is the most successful sport in Israel and every medal creates a great fuss,” he said.

Sagi Muki after his win (Photo: Reuters)

Sagi Muki after his win (Photo: Reuters)

“A lot of Israelis came to Tokyo to encourage the team and I’m glad I could them happy.”

A delighted President Reuven Rivlin took to Twitter to congratulate Muki, writing: “Your achievement makes us so proud and teaches us that hard work, humanity and a hand always extended in peace can conquer the greatest heights.

“Congratulations on your gold medal and thank you for the pride you bring us all as Israelis,” he wrote.

The article was published on Ynet


EU Ambassador ‘appalled’ by news of attack

EU Ambassador to Israel sends condolences to family of terror victim as MKs from across the spectrum express outrage.

Knesset members from across the political spectrum responded Friday to a terror attack which left a young woman dead and her father and brother wounded.

In the attack, terrorists threw a homemade explosive device thrown at Israelis hiking near the Ein Bubin spring near the Binyamin-region town of Dolev.

MK Nir Barkat (Likud), said: “The attack near Dolev is further proof of the Palestinian Authority’s policy of hate-filled incitement that causes this continued downward spiral. I pray for a speedy recovery for the wounded and trust that our security forces will quickly capture those responsible.”

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) said that he is praying for the recovery of those injured, adding: “This criminal terror attack demands a harsh response. I am convinced that our security forces will reach those who committed this attack. They will try to hurt us and we will build, develop, and strengthen the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria.”

Har Hevron Regional Council Head Yochai Demeri said: “The escalation in the security situation demands an appropriate response. This chain of events shows a trend, and dragging our feet is not a solution. Deporting the murderers’ families together with applying sovereignty in Area C are the first steps and we are obligated to take them.”

“Terror draws encouragement from its successes and anyone who does not stop the terror attacks in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria should not be surprised by incidents occurring in city centers. Terror will not deter us, and we will continue to hike everywhere – in Jerusalem, Dolev, Nahal Oz, the Golan, and Tel Aviv, because their motivation to murder Jews needs no reason. Our hearts and prayers are with the victims.”

Yisrael Beytenu Chairman MK Avigdor Liberman said: “The terror attack in Binyamin is a stinging slap on the face for the Netanyahu government of submission, which continues to abandon the security of the State of Israel’s citizens in favor of paying bribes to Hamas and the Palestinian Authority so that there will be quiet until the elections.”

“A government which stops repairs on the dangerous road near the Gaza border because it’s out of money, but on the other hand begs Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to accept 2 billion shekels ($569,180,000), is not worthy of the public’s trust. At this difficult time, my heart is with the victims and their families, and I support the IDF and security forces, who are currently hunting the terrorists.”

Tzachi Dickstein, chairman of the Samaria Settlers’ Committee, said: “This is the second terror attack in the past twenty-four hours which has harmed innocent civilians. The facts speak for themselves: Removing the checkpoints is an ongoing mistake. We must immediately replace the road checkpoints and the security around the villages in order to give residents back their security and in order to prevent the next attack.”

“The lives of Israeli citizens in Judea and Samaria are a thousand times more important than the convenience of terrorists on the road and later in the Israeli vacation houses they are jailed in.”

Binyamin Regional Council Head Yisrael Gantz, aho arrived at the scene of the attack together with the Council’s professional staffs, said: “We will not allow terror organizations to deter us from hiking in nature and enjoying the views and springs of our land. It’s time the government of Israel woke up and initiated, instead of just being dragged, and send a message of strength, courage, and security, so that those attackers know that they can no longer easily attack hikers who are coming to relax at springs.”

“I expect the Prime Minister to ensure the safety and security of Judea and Samaria’s residents and stop promising to apply sovereignty, and do it instead.”

In addition, European Union Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret tweeted: “Appalled by the news of the heinous attack on a father and his children in the West Bank this morning. My thoughts and condolences are with victims of this despicable act.”

The article was published on Arutz 7


Slain student Dvir Sorek, 18, had a ‘heart of gold,’ teachers say

Off-duty soldier remembered as talented musician who always thought of others; father mourns ‘kid with light in his eyes’ who would befriend the marginalized

Dvir Sorek, a yeshiva student enrolled in a program combining Torah study with military service, left his seminary in the West Bank settlement of Migdal Oz Wednesday to head to Jerusalem to buy books — a gift for a teacher.

The 18-year-old, whose birthday is next week, never returned.

In the early hours of Thursday morning, his body was discovered on the side of a road leading into the settlement, riddled with stab wounds. He was not in uniform at the time of his death, the army said. Authorities were treating the killing as a terror attack.

“He was found clutching the books that he’d bought,” Rabbi Shlomo Wilk, the head of the Migdal Oz seminary Machanayim, said Thursday morning, as word of Sorek’s murder was met with shock and sadness by those who knew him.

“He was an amazing man, very sensitive, smart, modest, who fused wisdom and quiet… This is a man who at the beginning of the year saw an Arab walking around the area with a donkey that looked unwell, sick, so he offered to buy the donkey. He bought it, treated it, and sent it away,” Rabbi Sarel Rosenblatt, who taught Sorek, told Channel 12 news.

“I wanted him to be a man of standing in Israel, who would contribute a lot of his light to Israeli society, and his light was taken from us,” he added, describing him as a “sensitive man with a heart of gold.”

Another teacher, Rabbi Yossi Fruman, said his trip to Jerusalem to buy a gift for his teacher “very much defined him.”

“He always thought about how he can express his gratitude. He returned to Jerusalem with the books on him,” he told the Kan public broadcaster. Some media outlets identified the book as Israeli author David Grossman’s latest novel.

He was the son of Yoav Sorek, the editor of the conservative HaShiloach journal, published by the Tikvah Fund.

On Thursday afternoon, Sorek described his son as “a kid with light in his eyes,” adding that “whoever didn’t know him missed out, he used to help the weak around him who were in need of a friend.”

“Our Dvir was sweet,” a tearful Sorek told reporters outside his home. “Two months ago he had a karate exam and he didn’t get a high grade because his teacher said he performs the movements well, but lacks ‘murder’ in his eyes. Now someone with murder in his eyes has taken him.

“We received a gift for almost 19 years — for that gift we are grateful, we will carry the pain from now on,” he said.

“He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He was a symbol of the love of mankind,” his uncle, Menachem Borenstein, told Army Radio, describing his nephew as a “tzaddik,” or righteous man.

Sorek’s grandfather, Rabbi Binyamin Herling, an educator and Holocaust survivor, was killed in a terrorist attack on Mount Ebal in the West Bank in October 2000.

A resident of Ofra, Sorek’s hometown, described him as a “good kid” and “talented musician” who loved nature, in an interview with Army Radio.

Authorities have launched a wide-scale manhunt for the attackers.

Initial findings indicated that Sorek was not killed where his body was found, but may have been abducted elsewhere, stabbed to death and then left along the road outside Migdal Oz.

He will be buried in Ofra on Thursday night at 8 p.m

The article was published on The Times of Israel


YOUNG ACTIVISTS ATTEND BOOT-CAMP TO FIGHT ANTISEMITISM IN EUROPE

EJA chairman: With rising antisemitism directly linked to rising anti-Zionism, the stakes have rarely been higher

A boot-camp for 50 young European activists aimed at fighting antisemitism and anti-Zionism was hosted earlier this week in Brussels by the European Jewish Association (EJA).

Partnering on the event with the Europe Israel Public Affairs and the European Center for Jewish Students, the boot-camp was the first step in “building a Europe-wide network of young and engaged activists,” the EJA said in a statement on Tuesday.

Activists and budding activists who attended came from countries as far as the Ukraine and Iceland, as well as the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe.

“The participants represent the first draft of a new ‘officer corps’ of young activists, who will go back to their countries and advocate for Israel, build local armies and effectively counter anti-Zionist and antisemitic narratives, and will be regularly briefed and trained on best practice and campaigns from Brussels and from Israel, as well as sharing knowledge and supporting each other,” it explained.

EJA chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said in a statement following the event that the boot-camp “was an intensive course in advocacy.”

“Across Europe, with rising antisemitism directly linked to rising anti-Zionism, the stakes have rarely been higher,” he explained. “We wanted to inspire, to show these brave young activists that they are not alone, that there is support and to help them build networks, not only for mutual support, but for best practice in countering these antisemitic narratives.”

He added that this boot-camp “is the start of a long journey for these young ‘soldiers,’ and one that will help them lead, encourage and inspire others in the months and years ahead.”

The boot-camp included engagement and classes with experts in these fields, including speakers from StandWithUs, the Strategic Affairs Ministry and the media, including experts from The Guardian newspaper and Euronews.

According to the EJA, “participants got stuck into the basics of lobbying and media relations, whilst Swedish Israel advocate Saskia Pantell shared top tips on best practice and winning on social media.”

Participants also took part in a gala dinner event, in which they heard from Holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Forum in Antwerp, Regina Suchowolski-Sluzny.

They also viewed videos that highlighted both good and bad interviews, and segments from Palestinian children’s television shows.

The article was published on The JPost


SUMMER BOOTCAMP: PRO-ISRAEL AND COUNTER-ANTISEMITISM

Brussels 8 July. A triumvirate of Brussels-based Jewish and Israel advocacy groups have begun building a Europe-wide army of young and engaged activists, beginning with a Bootcamp that began on Sunday and concluded today (Monday 8 July).

The intensive two-day course from Europe Israel Public Affairs (EIPA) with partners European Jewish Association (EJA) and the European Centre for Jewish Students (ECJS) brought young activists and want-to-be activists to the European Union’s capital from Iceland to Romania and everywhere in between.

With expert speakers from StandWithUs, the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs, and media  experts from the Guardian newspaper and Euronews, participants got stuck into the basics of lobbying and media relations, whilst Swedish Israel advocate Saskia Pantell sharing top tips on best practice and winning on social media.

A gala dinner took place where participants heard from holocaust survivor and president of the Jewish Forum in Antwerp, Regina Suchowolski-Sluzny and watched videos of good and bad interviews and Palestinian children’s tv segments versus Kazakhstan’s infamous Borat.

The participants represent the first draft of a new “officer corps” of young activists, who will go back to their countries and advocate for Israel, build local armies and effectively counter anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic narratives, and will be regularly briefed and trained on best practice and campaigns from Brussels and from Israel, as well as sharing knowledge and supporting each other.

EJA Chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin, said in a statement after the event:

“Our Bootcamp was an intensive course in advocacy. Across Europe, with rising antisemitism directly linked to rising antizionism, the stakes have rarely been higher. The picture from the youth in Scandinavia was particularly shocking. We wanted to inspire, to show these brave young activists that they are not alone, that there is support and to help them build networks, not only for mutual support, but for best practise in countering these antisemitic narratives.

“The bootcamp is the start of a long journey for these young “soldiers”, and one that wil help them lead, encourage and inspire others in the months and years ahead.”

 


Making the Case for Freedom- Human Rights and Free Speech in Europe Today

Together with the Shema and the Sallux political foundation, we had the pleasure to host Dennis Prager from leading #FreeSpeech platform PragerU.

The conference was hosted by MEP Branislav Škripek and included Hungarian State Secretary Vince Szalay-Bobrovniczky and our chairman,  Rabbi Menachem Margolin who spoke on the issue of freedom of religion as it relates to Jewish life and antisemitism in Europe today. The video from the event is available HERE


Nechama Rivlin, wife of Israel’s president, dies at 73

Mrs. Rivlin underwent lung transplant in March after suffering from pulmonary fibrosis for many years; family thanks people of Israel for their ongoing concern for her health after her operation

Nechama Rivlin, the wife of President Reuven Rivlin, died Tuesday at the age of 73, a day before her 74th birthday.

A statement from the family Tuesday said: “The Rivlin family wishes to thank the people of Israel and religious leaders who have continued to be concerned about Nechama’s welfare, who have sent letters and children’s drawings to the hospital and the President’s Residence and who have prayed for her recovery every day, every hour.”

Details of the funeral have yet to be released.

She was a popular first lady who focused on the arts, the environment and children with special needs, and was a trusted adviser to her husband throughout his long political career as a Likud lawmaker and later president.

Nechama Rivlin was born in 1945 in Tel Mond, a farming community. She began studying at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1964, and in 1970 met her husband at a party. They were married a year later, and have three children.

Mrs. Rivlin suffered from pulmonary fibrosis for years. In the past year, her condition deteriorated to the extent that she required an oxygen tank at all times.

In March, she underwent a lung transplant at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, receiving the organ of 19-year-old Yair Yechezkel Halbali, who drowned in Eilat days earlier. Nine days after the transplant, she underwent another surgical procedure to support the transplant.

The president did not leave his wife’s bedside during her stay in hospital. In great pain, Mrs. Rivlin had to learn to breathe again. During the rehabilitation process, the medical team created the illusion of her still being attached to an oxygen tank, while in reality she was spending several hours breathing on her own. When she learned of their trick, she was incredulous.

At the beginning of May, Mrs. Rivlin’s condition worsened, leaving her suffering from severe shortness of breath and exhaustion. The president, who was on a state visit to Canada at the time, immediately decided to cut short his trip and retu

the article was published on Ynet


A COUNTRY BY COUNTRY LOOK AT THE EU ELECTIONS

Here is a quick glance at what we know so far on Monday.

With the European elections results coming in overnight there are some surprises, but many predictable outcomes. The elections have ramifications for Europe’s position in the world because the more Europe is unstable and fractured by infighting, the less it will play a role in world affairs. In addition, the more extreme parties in Europe will fuel the continued cycle of the instability, likely exacerbating the inability of the continent to act as a whole on policies, leaving such issues as immigration and security in the hands of states that have deepening societal divisions.

Here is a quick glance at what we know so far on Monday.

Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party remakes map of UK politics

The pro-Brexit leader Nigel Farage, who appeared to leave politics after the UK voted to leave the EU in 2016, led a new party to a surprising thirty percent of the votes in the UK European elections. These elections weren’t supposed to even happen because the UK was already supposed to have left the EU. His message was that his party wants to take responsibility for leaving the EU and that if the ruling Conservatives don’t act then they will be crushed at the next polls.

The Conservatives already were humiliated in the EU elections in the UK, receiving less than ten percent. The Liberal Democrats performed well with almost 20 percent of the vote while Labour slipped to 14% and the Greens grabbed 11%. It’s clear that a coalition of Labour, the Greens and Liberal-Democrats, with the Scottish Nationalists, likely could run the UK after the next general election. For now it is the EU that will be getting Farage back.

Germany goes Green

In Germany the centrist and historically dominant Christian Democrats and Social Democrats lost votes to the Green Party. The Greens took twenty percent of the vote while the right wing AfD took ten percent. For Germany, any notion that right wing parties might do well always conjures up comparisons to the past. But the reality is that there is no massive swing to the far-right in Germany, yet. Instead the major parties are simply being weakened. The smaller leftist Die Linke party, for instance, took five percent of the vote. Liberals took another five percent.

Le Pen wins, again, in France

Marine Le Pen’s National Rally defeated President Emmanuel Macron’s party by a whopping 23.3% to 22.4%. This is supposed to make us all gasp that Lep Pen has “won,” but she hasn’t really won anything. Macron has been beset by massive protests by the “yellow vests” and French politics is fickle. They tend to dislike their presidents. The Le Pen phenomenon has continued for twenty years in France. In 2002 Jean-Marie Le Pen received 17% in the presidential election. Marine Le Pen got 33% of the vote in 2017. So her 23% isn’t a win, it’s a loss for her party. It just looks good in comparison to Macron’s failure. The real winners, in a sense, in France were the Greens with 13% of the vote, an increase from last time. See a pattern here with the Greens doing better in Germany and the UK?

Italy’s one third

A third of Italians voted for the Lega, Matteo Salvini’s party that is popular in the north of the country. Another 23% voted for the social democrats while only 16% chose the Five Star Movement, a new party that had got around a third of the vote in the 2018 elections. It appears that Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia got 7% of the vote. One supposes that means former Italian leader Mr. Berlusconi is back in politics, something he has been trying to achieve for the last few years. The end result in Italy is that although the right wing is doing well, they are still divided and kept at a third of the votes.

Sweden’s moderate politics

Not so long ago Sweden thought that it might be swept up in populist politics with the rise of the Sweden Democrats. The wave appears to be cresting as they now have 15% of the vote, a continual rise from 2018 when they had 13% in national elections. But the rest of Sweden’s politics is predictable. The Moderate party got 16% and the center-left took 23%. The Greens now have 11%.

Flemish Nationalism rises in Belgium

The new Flemish Alliance, which had 20% in the 2014 vote got only 13% in the EU elections, but its more far-right Vlaams Belang got 11%. On the left the socialists took 10%, the French speaking Greens 7% and the Flemish speaking Greens another 7%. Flemish socialists also got 6%. All in all the politics in Belgium is so divided that it’s hard to make any real conclusions, besides the obvious fact that the Flemish right is rising. Previously the the Vlaams Belang had only around 3% of the vote. But a previous incarnation of the far-right, the Vlams Blok, once got 12% of the vote in 1994 and 15% in 1999. So the new far-right Flemish speakers have merely gone back to what they used to have.

Puigdemont gets a seat in Spain

The Catalan separatist Carles Puigdemont secured a seat in Spain while another group supporting local regions, Ahora Republicas, got 5% of the votes. Its leader Oriol Junqueras has been in imprisoned on charges of “rebellion.” The populist Vox party got 6% of the vote in Spain. Overall Spain’s politics are largely dominated by the normal parties with the socialists getting 32% and the center-right People’s Party getting 20%. Another center-right Citizens party got 12%.

Orban’s Hungary

Viktor Orban continued his dominance of Hungarian politics, taking more than 50% of the vote in the EU elections there. He has been the leader of the Fidesz party for years and a dominant figure since the late 1990s. It is the only European country where a party got over 50% of the vote.

Poland goes for two big parties

Poland looks the way western European countries used to look in its voting pattern for two large parties. Forty-three percent chose a right wing conservative party called Law and Justice, while 38% chose the European Coalition. In general Poland’s politics have not fractured like many other countries in Europe.

Austria’s Greens and Freedom Party

Austrian politics also looks relatively normal in the EU election, with the People’s Party taking 34% and the Social Democrats taking 23%. The Freedom Party, with is more right wing, has 17% and the Greens 14%. This looks like the 2017 Austrian legislative elections in which the Freedom Party got 20% and the Greens got 12%. Basically there is no news from Vienna.

Romania’s socialists lose out

In Romania the center-right National Liberal Party got 27% of the vote while the Social Democrats got only 24%. A centrist party called USR-PLUS got another 18%. The Social Democrats had 45% of the vote as recently as 2016. They now have been handed a major defeat. Romania matters to the Eu because it has 32 seats in the 751 parliament, making it one of the larger members in the 28 member block. Germany, Italy, France and the UK are the largest, followed by France and Poland.

Ireland also goes Green a bit

Ireland largely voted for the parties one would expect, Fine Gail got 29% and Fianna Fail got 15%. This represented a defeat for Fianna Fail while the Green Party grabbed 15%, much more than in the 2016 elections in Ireland. Sinn Fein got 13%, which is exactly what it got in 2016. No big surprises here, except for the Greens.

Netherlands says goodbye to populism

The Party for Freedom (PVV) once had 16% and 13% in EU elections in 2009 and 2014. But it slipped to a dismal failure in the 2019 elections, illustrating the far-right nationalism may not be on the march. It came in second with 13% of the vote in the 2017 general elections in Holland. But the Dutch decided on more traditional politics this election, sending Labour to the EU with 19% of the vote and the People’s Party with 14%. The Greens got 10% of the vote. The surprising failure of the populists and nationalists in Netherlands may point to a turning point in that country and others. After almost two decades, since the days of the Pim Fortuyn List, politics in the low country seem a bit more traditional.

The article was published on The JPost


German Parliament Deems B.D.S. Movement Anti-Semitic

BERLIN — The German Parliament on Friday became the first in the European Union to pass a symbolic resolution that designates the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S., movement against Israel as anti-Semitic.

The nonbinding vote said the campaign to boycott Israeli products, along with the movement’s “Don’t Buy” stickers, recalled “the most terrible chapter in German history” and revived memories of the Nazi motto “Don’t buy from Jews.”“The pattern of argument and methods of the B.D.S. movement are anti-Semitic,” the resolution stated, vowing not to fund any organizations that question Israel’s right to exist, call for a boycott of Israel or actively support B.D.S.B.D.S., which was inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, has had several recent successes. In 2018, nearly two dozen artists pulled out of a music festival in Israel. Most recently, the B.D.S. movement has called on artists and fans to boycott the Eurovision Song Contest because Israel is the host.The resolution, which mentioned “growing unease” in the German Jewish community as anti-Semitism has increased, was brought to Parliament by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union party and its Social Democratic coalition partner, as well as the liberal party and the Greens.Crime statistics published by the German Interior Ministry on Tuesday showed that anti-Semitic crime and hate crime rose by 20 percent last year. The report found that nine in 10 anti-Semitic offenses were committed by people on the far-right.

The Palestinian B.D.S. National Committee said in a statement Friday that it “rejects all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism” and condemned what it called an “anti-Palestinian, McCarthyite and unconstitutional resolution passed by the German Parliament.”“We call on people of conscience in Germany and beyond to defend the sanctity of universal human rights and freedom of expression by protecting the right to B.D.S.,” the statement read. “The academic and cultural boycott of Israel is strictly institutional and does not target individual Israelis.”There were other critics, too. Some 60 academics signed an open letter, saying the motion formed part of a worrying trend of “labeling supporters of Palestinian human rights as anti-Semitic.”
It said the mixing of the B.D.S and anti-Semitism was supported by “Israel’s most right- wing government in the history” and formed part of a strategy to delegitimize any attempt at international solidarity with the Palestinian cause.

But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel congratulated Parliament, known as the Bundestag, on its “important decision to recognize B.D.S. as an anti-Semitic movement and that it is forbidden to support it.”“I particularly appreciate the Bundestag’s call on Germany to stop funding organizations that work against the existence of the State of Israel,” Mr. Netanyahu said, “I hope this decision will lead to concrete action, and I call on other countries to adopt similar legislation.”Yuli Edelstein, the speaker of the Israeli Parliament, tweeted: “Thank you #Bundestag! For the courageous and important decision! BDS is a dangerous, antisemitic movement. You are the first, but many others will follow in your footsteps.”Germany’s Jewish organizations also welcomed the vote.The far-right Alternative für Deutschland had put forward a separate motion on Friday that called for a ban of the B.D.S. movement.One of its lawmakers, Jürgen Braun, said his party was the real friend of Israel in the German Parliament. “Anti-Semitism comes from the left and from Islam,” he said.The AfD abstained in the vote.The Left Party also said it rejected the B.D.S. movement, but it refused to back Friday’s motion. In its own motion, the party called on the government to support efforts to find a peaceful two-state solution in the Middle East.

Ther article was published on The New York Times


Gaza ceasefire apparently in place after violent flare-up that claimed four Israeli lives

Army lifts all restrictions on communities bordering Hamas-ruled enclave following days of heavy fire that saw more than 700 rockets launched at southern, central Israel; 23 Palestinians also killed; mobilized IDF troops still deployed along border
Palestinian officials said an Egyptian-mediated ceasefire agreement was reached with Israel on Monday to end a recent surge of border violence, which saw some 700 rockets fired by Gaza militants into Israeli territory, the bloodiest fighting between the two sides since a 50-day 2014 war.
There was no official ceasefire announcement from either side, but the intense fighting over the past two days appeared to come to a sudden halt in the early morning hours, and Israeli military later said it lifted all protective restrictions on residents in southern Israel. Nevertheless, IDF troops continue to mass at along the Gaza border in preparation for a possible renewal of hostilities.
In the latest round-up of border fighting, which erupted over the weekend, Palestinian militants fired more than 700 rockets into Israel, killing four Israeli civilians, the first Israeli fatalities from rocket fire since 2014 Operation Protective Edge. The Israeli military responded with airstrikes on some 320 targets inside Gaza, which Palestinian medical officials say killed 23 people. IDF said most of those killed in their strikes were militants.

“The ceasefire understanding will begin Monday 04:30,” a Palestinian official familiar with the agreement said. A second Palestinian official confirmed that a deal was reached, as well a TV station belonging to Hamas, Gaza’s Islamist rulers.

The Israeli military confirmed its decision Monday morning, saying: “As of 7 a.m., all protective restrictions in the home front will be lifted.” Schools and roads had been closed, and residents had been encouraged to remain indoors and near bomb shelters as intense rocket fire pounded the area.

Sources in the Gaza Strip say the Palestinian factions are committed to the ceasefire as long as Israel fulfils its part of the agreement reached. Sources added that Hamas has received guarantees from the Egyptian mediators that Israel will transfer to Gaza millions of Qatari financial aid and open the border crossing for entrance of goods and humanitarian aid to the Strip. Israel, for the their part, apparently said the renewal of any type of border violence will affect the term of the agreement.

Egyptian mediators had been working with the United Nations to broker a ceasefire. Under past Egyptian-brokered deals, Israel has agreed to ease a blockade of Gaza in exchange for a halt to rocket fire.

The latest fighting broke out after Palestinian militants accused Israel of not honoring an earlier ceasefire deal from March.

The article was published on Ynet

New Knesset sworn in, Rivlin urges coalition to be ‘ honorable winners’

The president called on MKs to put political strategy behind and ‘clean the dirt’ after elections season; with traditional ceremonies, 120 Knesset members declared their commitment to the State of Israel

Israel’s 21st Knesset was ceremoniously sworn in on Tuesday afternoon, including its 49 new members, while President Reuven Rivlin urged for unity and mutual respect.

Rivlin spoke at the opening ceremony and criticized the heated campaigns that preceded the April 9 elections, and pleaded MKs to put aside all differences, stop slamming their political rivals and have clean and honest debates which he called “the only thing that gives this home (of ours) a right to exist, and its status as a Jewish and democratic country a strong base.”

“We’ve been through a rough campaign season. We’ve slammed others and got slammed ourselves,” said the president. “Enough now. We must rise above, put our swords aside and clean the dirt. Political strategy can no longer be the only the sole compass.”

Rivlin addressed both the coalition and the opposition and shared from his experience on both sides. “It is a great right to serve the people from the opposition, as much as it is a great responsibility,” said the president.

Rivlin cited Menahem Begin, who was the opposition leader for several terms before he became prime minister, and told the crowd that during the swearing in of Prime Minister Levi Eshkol in 1963, Begin gave everybody a lesson about the important role of the opposition.

“He (Eshkol) must know that we aspire to move him and his colleagues to the opposition, and it isn’t only our right — it is our duty,” cited the president.

To the opposition Rivlin said they must be “honorable winners.”

“You are not in the opposition, you have been holding the reins of power and leadership for a long time now,” said the president, referring to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 5th term in office.

“It is your duty to stop trying to finish off you rivals, let go of the victimhood, and reign with respect and love over all the different kind of citizens who live here,” Rivlin concluded.

After all 120 MKs stood up and declared their commitment to serve, the national anthem, Hatikva, was sung by all but the Arab parties, who did not participate and left the hall.

 

The article was published on Ynet


Rivlin officially tasks Netanyahu with forming next government

The right-wing bloc is expected to consist of the Likud, Kulanu, Yisrael Beitenu, Shas and United Torah Judaism parties – a 65-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin officially tapped Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday to form a governing coalition.

Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a new government. Rivlin may grant a 14-day extension, if necessary.

The right-wing bloc is expected to consist of the Likud, Kulanu, Yisrael Beitenu, Shas and United Torah Judaism parties – a 65-seat majority in the 120-seat Knesset.

“This was a tough election campaign. Things were said that should not have been said, from all sides. Not in a democratic state and not in the Jewish state,” said Rivlin. “The iron wall should be between us and our enemies, not inside our own home, not between us.”

Additionally, the president lamented that less women will serve in the upcoming government than the previous one.

“Unfortunately, this Knesset will have far fewer women than the previous Knesset. We have lost vital women’s representation in the Knesset and the government,” said Rivlin. “I hope that the new Knesset and government will include women ministers and committee chairs, and ensure that the voice of women is present and clearly heard, on the issues themselves and as a message to the public.”

Netanyahu’s re-election to his fifth term last week will make him Israel’s longest-serving prime minister since the founding father and first leader of the Jewish nation, David Ben-Gurion.

The article was published on JNS


Dutch parliament adopts motion to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority as long as it rewards terrorists

THE HAGUE—The Dutch Parliament has voted a motion calling on the government to cut 7% of Dutch funding to the Palestinian Authority.

MP Kees van der Staaij, from the Christian Reformed Political Party (SGP), had submitted a proposal to stop the financial contributions to the Palestinian Authority (PA), as long as it continues to reward terrorists.

The cut of 7% was chosen after monitoring group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) provided the parliament with documentation showing that the PA spends 7% of its budget on payments to terrorists in jail and to families of killed terrorists (“Martyrs”).

The Dutch motion is binding unless the PA stops these payments.

Van der Staaij came to this motion after a conversation with terror survivor Kay Wilson. She pointed out that the Palestinian Authority indoctrinates Palestinians with hatred and that terrorists are rewarded by the PA for their crimes.

The PA recently added four new families of terrorists to its growing terror rewards payroll. One terrorist shot a pregnant woman, forcing an emergency delivery, but the newborn son died a few days later. Another terrorist murdered two of his Israeli coworkers. The other two terrorists were killed while attempting to kill Israelis. The families of the four terrorists will now receive monthly allowances for life.

In July 2014 following a previous presentation by PMW to Dutch MPs, the parliament voted 148-2 to cut funding to the PA if it continued paying salaries to terrorists. However, the cut never happened because the PA deceived Western donors by closing the Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs and claiming the payments were made by the PLO from non-donor money.

When PMW exposed the PA fraud, in 2016, the international community was outraged. This led to the US Taylor Force Act, in March 2018, which conditions most of US aid to the PA, and to the Australian government’s decision, in July 2018, to cut all its direct aid to the PA. This is the first time since PMW exposed the PA’s deception in 2016 that a European country has legislated to cut funding because of the PA’s payments to terrorists.

The article was published on EJP


Human Shields, Complex Realities of the Modern Battlefield.

Child killer, organ harvester, Nazi, Occupier, blood thirsty murderers. These are just some of the words some people use to describe the soldiers of the Israel Defence Forces.

As a pro-Israel advocacy group here in Brussels, you would quite rightly expect us to take a completely different view.

And we do. We support the Israel Defence Forces, for any number of reasons. And we find the insults thrown at them disgusting and reprehensible, particularly as those accusing them have no idea what they are talking about, nor the reality on the ground for these brave men and women.

So, when the opportunity came, EIPA was delighted to partner with My Truth, an organisation of serving IDF reserve soldiers who wanted, like us, to inform and share their stories.

The “Human Shields” project of My Truth, which we presented to the European Parliament this week, describes the cynical use made by Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, of their civilian population as human shields. “A terrorist who throws a grenade under the cover of small children, or women who stand in the line of fire to absorb the fire themselves are few examples of the human rights violations committed by the terror organizations,” says Avihai Shorshan, My Truth’s director.

“We want to tell the whole world who are the real war criminals in this conflict. We must put an end to the slanders and lies being levelled against our soldiers around the world,” he added.

Our event, kindly sponsored by EPP MEP Ramona Manescu and Socialist MEP Andi Cristea, was aimed at getting an understanding beyond the clichés and emotional rhetoric. 

None of us really know what goes on in a conflict, and thank goodness most of us will never have to.

We may agree or disagree with the conflict, but what isn’t up for debate are the experiences in dealing with human shields, with an enemy that doesn’t respect basic humanity, and that put their own citizens in the way of harm cynically and deliberately.

We were delighted to see a packed room, where parliamentarians including senior figures like Victor Bostinaru and Fulvio Martusciello attended and spoke freely, underlining that the EU must do more to counter the terrorist narratives.

A lively question and answer session followed with EU diplomats and members of the European External Action service, for the first time, having the opportunity to ask soldiers directly of their experiences instead of getting filtered news.

EIPA would like to thank Gilad Segal, Eli Bogdan, Lital Shemesh and Avihai Shorshan for having the courage and tenacity to address the European Parliament, an institution that is often behind many ill-informed resolutions and positions on Israel on the realities faced by an enemy that doesn’t adhere to the most basic and common moral or legal conventions.

It is our firm intention to work with My Truth again again after the European Elections so they can give their testimonies again to a new generation of parliamentarians and their staffers from across the EU Member States.


Israel’s first lunar lander launched into space from Florida

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Florida on Thursday night carrying Israel’s first lunar lander on a mission that if successful will make the Jewish state only the fourth nation to achieve a controlled touchdown on the moon’s surface.

The unmanned robotic lander dubbed Beresheet – Hebrew for the biblical phrase “in the beginning” – soared into space from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at about 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 GMT Friday) atop the 23-story-tall rocket.

Beresheet, about the size of a dish-washing machine, was one of three sets of cargo carried aloft by the Falcon 9, part of the private rocket fleet of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s California-based company SpaceX.

The rocket’s two other payloads were a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the U.S. Air Force.

Beresheet was jettisoned into Earth orbit about 34 minutes after launch, followed 15 minutes later by the release of the two satellites, according to a SpaceX webcast of the event.

In addition to a textbook launch and payload deployments, SpaceX scored yet another success in its pioneering technology for recycling its own rockets.

Just minutes after blastoff, the Falcon 9’s nine-engine suborbital main-stage booster separated from the upper stage, flew back to Earth and landed safely on a drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean more than 300 miles (483 km) off the Florida coast.

As seen from the launch site, the distant glow of the returning booster rocket was visible in the sky just as the moon appeared over the horizon. The spectacle drew cheers from mission control engineers.

The encouraging moment came on the eve of a key hurdle for SpaceX to clear in the company’s quest to help NASA revive its human spaceflight program.

On Friday, NASA is expected to decide whether to give its final go-ahead to SpaceX for a first, unmanned test flight on March 2 of a new capsule the company designed for carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

FROM EARTH TO THE MOON

Beresheet is slated to reach its destination on the near-side of the moon in mid-April following a two-month journey through 4 million miles (6.5 million km) of space.

A flight path directly from Earth to the moon would cover roughly 240,000 miles (386,242 km), but Beresheet will follow a more circuitous route.

If all goes according to plan, the spacecraft’s gradually widening Earth orbit will eventually bring the probe within the moon’s gravitational pull, setting the stage for a series of additional maneuvers leading to an automated touchdown.

So far, only three other nations have carried out controlled “soft” landings on the moon – the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

Spacecraft from several countries, including India’s Moon Impact Probe, Japan’s SELENE orbiter and a European Space Agency orbital probe called SMART 1, have intentionally crashed on the lunar surface.

The U.S. Apollo program tallied six manned missions to the moon – the only ones yet achieved – between 1969 and 1972, with about a dozen more robotic landings combined by the Americans and Soviets. China made history in January with its Chang’e 4, the first to touch down on the dark side of the moon.

Beresheet would mark the first non-government lunar landing. The 1,290-pound (585-kg) spacecraft was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished almost entirely by private donors.A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying Israel’s first spacecraft designed to land on the moon lifts off on the first privately-funded lunar mission at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., February 21, 2019. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Beresheet is designed to spend just two to three days using on-board instruments to photograph its landing site and measure the moon’s magnetic field. Data will be relayed via the U.S. space agency NASA’s Deep Space Network to SpaceIL’s Israel-based ground station Yehud.

At the end of its brief mission, mission controllers plan to simply shut down the spacecraft, according to SpaceIL officials, leaving Beresheet as the latest piece of human hardware to litter the lunar landscape.

The article was published on Reuters


Leaders of Visegrad Group, Most Pro-Israel Nations in EU, to Meet in Jerusalem

Leaders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland will meet in Jerusalem in February for the next Visegrad Group summit with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a bid to strengthen their alliance with Israel.

This will be the first time that a Visegrad Group summit is held outside of Europe.

The four leaders—Poland’s Mateusz Morawiecki, Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán and the Czech Republic’s Andrej Babis—will meet on Feb. 18-19 in Jerusalem.

Netanyahu already attended the Visegrad Group summit in Budapest in 2017, during which he criticized the EU’s policy towards Israel.

The Israeli premier has been fostering closer ties with the Visegrad Group countries in order to advance pro-Israel issues at the EU level.

“The Visegrad Group is one of the sub-alliances that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is developing in the EU to neutralize what he views as an anti-Israel bias from Brussels,” wrote The Jerurusalem Post.

Both the Czech Republic and Hungary  blocked any EU resolution to condemn the controversial move decided by US President Donald Trump.

The Visegrad Group (also known as the “Visegrad Four,” or simply “V4”) reflects the efforts of the countries of the Central European region to work together in a number of fields of common interest within the all-European integration.

Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have always been part of a single civilization sharing cultural and intellectual values and common roots in diverse religious traditions, which they wish to preserve and further strengthen.

The article was published by the Algemeiner


New IDF chief Aviv Kochavi takes office

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi becomes the Israel Defense Forces’ 22nd commander; ‘To defend our national home, we need a sobered outlook, a fit military force, the willingness to use that force, discretion and determination,’ says Kochavi.

Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi entered the office of the Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff on Tuesday morning in the beginning of a new era.

The 22nd IDF chief started his day with a ceremony at the Kirya IDF headquarters in Tel Aviv, where he received the rank of lieutenant general from Prime Minister and Defense Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“‘I swear.’ This is what I called out alongside my fellow soldiers in front of the Western Wall, which was for us a wall of support and protection. It has been 2,000 years, and this wall of protection has expanded and become the Israel Defense Force. I swore in front of generations of soldiers and became another link in the chain of generations that come each in turn to defend the state,” the new IDF chief Kochavi said.

“‘I swear,’ every soldier calls out, and packs into these two words the relinquishing of the private for the national. The national home is a wonderful creation like no other in the history of nations, but it is planted in a region that for religious and national reasons is trying to reject its natural roots. To defend our national home, we need a sobered outlook, a fit military force, the willingness to use that force, discretion and determination,” he said.

To his predecessor Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Kochavi said, “In this spirit, Gadi, the IDF acted under your leadership and has repeatedly proven its abilities as the defender of the borders and the interior, using its long arm to destroy any threats. During your tenure, the IDF bolstered its units and increased its preparedness. I stand at the head of the military and on behalf of all of its soldiers and commanders, I thank and salute you.”

Concluding his remarks, Kochavi went back to his sworn oath at the beginning of his service in the IDF. “Like every soldier in his swear-in ceremony, I vowed at the time to dedicate all of my efforts to defending the homeland. Now, as the head of the General Staff, while I have national security and the good of the state before me, I make a new vow. There is much work to be done, good luck to us all,” Kochavi said.

Eisenkot summed up his own service in his remarks. “At the end of 40 years of service and four years as the IDF chief, I conclude a path that became my life’s mission,” he said.

Describing his objectives as IDF chief, Eisenkot said he sought to leave behind “a fit, prepared and powerful military that bolstered its strength with wisdom and determination.”

To Kochavi, Eisenkot said, “Proudly I seek to pass on to you the command over the most precious asset of our nation—the Israel Defense Forces. The command over the military is passed on today to you, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, a commander worthy like no other to stand at the head of the Israel Defense Forces.”

“The military I give to you today is advanced and remains true to its roots and spirit. Over the many years in which we worked together in the field and in the General Staff, it has been my privilege to get to know you as a commander with immense fortitude and leadership and command abilities. Your determination and extensive experience will be dedicated in full to bolstering the IDF’s preparedness and strength, maintaining its character and values, and nurturing the pride in the heart of its soldiers.”

Prime Minister and Defense Minister Netanyahu began his remarks by thanking Eisenkot for his 40 years of service.

“Over the past four years, we have dealt with great challenges: the changing fronts in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and other places. But there has also been on main element facing us: Iran and its terror proxies. We acted responsibly and with discretion to stop those who seek to harm us from growing stronger,” Netanyahu said.

“All of the actions we’ve taken in recent years to build up the IDF’s power were meant to bolster the military’s readiness and achieve one goal: victory in war. And the stronger we are, the more we increase the chances of peace,” he said.

Netanyahu boasted about the warming ties with Muslim nations, saying that “Thanks to our intelligence, operational and technological capabilities, our ties with the Arab world are growing stronger than ever before. Leading Muslim nations are getting closer to us. They realize we’re not their enemy, but a vital ally to lean on. By growing our military, our economy and our diplomacy, we have turned Israel into a rising world power.”

Eisenkot, he said, was a part of it as he met with his counterparts from Arab nations.

“Lt. Gen. Kochavi, you have a red beret on your shoulder, which symbolizes the special spirit of the Paratroopers: the steadfastness, the order ‘after me,’ and constantly striving for excellence,” he said.

“As an experienced military leader, you will now carry the grave responsibility of ensuring that the IDF fulfills its missions,” Netanyahu said. “The objective is clear: To ensure our superiority over our enemies and to increase the qualitative edge we have over them. First, we’ll work to bolster our offensive capabilities even more. We will ensure we have a crushing fist to attack our enemies with, both close and far.”

Concluding his remarks, the prime minister said that “if we are prepared to defend our country with all of our might, we might not have to fight an all-out war. And if we do, the IDF will handle this challenge, as will the citizens of Israel who will be united, and together we will ensure Israel’s eternal existence.”

Kochavi and Eisenkot will later travel to Jerusalem to visit the National Hall of Remembrance on Mount Herzl and the Western Wall, and then have lunch at the President’s Residence. After that, Kochavi will join the IDF’s General Staff for a toast and a goodbye from Eisenkot at the Kirya base in Tel Aviv, including an honorary guard for the outgoing IDF chief.

Kochavi, who was born in 1964, grew up in Kiryat Bialik. He is the second of the three children of the late Riba, who was a physical education teacher, and Shaul, a shop owner.

He began his IDF service in the Paratroopers’ Brigade, excelled at infantry officers’ course and went on to serve as the commander of the 101st Battalion, the commander of the Paratroopers’ Brigade, the head of the Military Intelligence Directorate (MID), the GOC Northern Command, and the deputy IDF chief. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a master’s from Harvard University.

The article was published on Ynet


Knesset voting on dissolving parliament, paving the way for April 9 elections

Lawmakers expected to pass law in all three readings on Wednesday, setting the stage for a three-month campaign leading up to the national poll

Three and a half years after its first sitting following the 2015 elections, the 20th Knesset is set to come to an end on Wednesday as lawmakers vote on a bill to dissolve parliament and set new elections for April 9.

A day after government ministers approved pushing ahead with the move, the Knesset will be host to a frantic series of committee debates and votes on the bill to dissolve parliament in an attempt to complete work on the move by the end of the day and officially start the election campaign for the 2019 election.

According to the decision of the Ministerial Committee for Legislation, the bill — which is expected to pass by a large margin — will face all three plenary readings on Wednesday in an accelerated legislative move reserved for emergency measures.

The first business of the day therefore began at 9.30 when members of the Knesset House Committee gathered to pass a motion allowing the dissolution bill to be pushed through the Knesset in one day and not be subject to the six-week waiting period that regular legislation normally faces after being proposed

Following the unanimous vote in favor of the motion, the bill now faces a first plenary debate and vote currently scheduled for 11 a.m. If the vote passes, the bill will return to the House Committee for final deliberations before once again being sent back to the plenum.

In the plenary’s second session, the bill faces two separate votes: the first on each of the two clauses in the bill, and the second on the bill as a whole. If the final vote passes with even a simple majority of 1-0, the Knesset will automatically disperse.

The first clause of the no-frills bill states the 20th Knesset will “dissolve itself ahead of elections,” and the second sets the date, agreed upon by coalition and opposition parties, for April 9th.

While the bill is not expected to face opposition, it could be held up by the head of the Knesset House Committee, MK Miki Zohar, who on Tuesday called for delaying the dissolution of the Knesset, arguing that lawmakers need more time to pass essential legislation before the elections and suggesting that he will use his position to block the bill.

Zohar cited two laws he said needed to be passed before the Knesset dissolves — his own bill to limit access to pornography online and a proposal by Likud MK Amir Ohana to ease access to the Israeli bar exam.

While elections have traditionally been held at least 90 days after the dissolution of the Knesset, by law, there is no minimum waiting period. If the Knesset votes to dissolve Wednesday, it will leave 105 days until elections, while immediately freezing any bills working their way through the Knesset.

Given the 15-day cushion, Zohar said there was no need to rush the bill to dissolve parliament and prevent legislative work from continuing.

“The Knesset must serve the State of Israel and not the politicians,” he said, telling his colleagues to “open up your calendars and set the date accordingly.”

Zohar, an acolyte of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has proposed and overseen a number of controversial pieces of legislation. said that the parliament should remain in full swing until the last possible opportunity, which falls on January 9.

According to Knesset bylaws, as chairman of the committee which would oversee the preparation of the bill, Zohar could in theory hold up the proposal indefinitely with no obligation to hold a vote within any specified time frame.

Speaking at Wednesday morning’s committee meeting, Zohar said that he agrees with the date of the national poll, but thinks the Knesset should wait to officially call elections.

“The date has been agreed upon by all factions and I support it,” he said at the opening of the debate. “But there are tax laws that are very important to those who sent us here and we can finalize the legislation on a number key issues.”

Coalition chairman David Amsalem, however, said that the bill to dissolve parliament would be passed in all three readings Wednesday and other legislation would be passed during special recess sessions that can be called during the election campaign.

Netanyahu on Monday called the early elections for April, setting the stage for a campaign clouded by a series of corruption investigations against the long-serving Israeli leader.

With the Likud leader holding a commanding lead in the polls, all eyes are on Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit and whether he will decide before the elections on whether to press charges against the longtime leader on a series of corruption allegations.

A first major round of polls on Tuesday found that Netanyahu is the strong favorite to win the upcoming race, though he is not hugely popular among voters.

The polls found that most Israelis do not think Netanyahu should be the next prime minister, though even fewer think any one of his rivals should be. In Israel’s multi-party system, however, even middling support is usually enough to win the premiership.

The article was published on The Times of Israel


Israeli anti-drone system used to re-open London’s Gatwick Airport

Costly, humiliating shutdown continues, after another drone is spotted amid unsuccessful police manhunt.

Another drone sighting forced London’s Gatwick airport runway to close again on Friday, as the 3-day long saga continues.

Police were still unsuccessfully looking for perpetrators in a disturbance that grounded flights in the second-busiest airport in the United Kingdom on Wednesday and Thursday, although British media favored the option of a lone-wolf environmentalist attack.

The airport has been in an ongoing dispute with its neighbors and environmental groups about expansion.

Planes were suspended on Wednesday night after a member of staff spotted an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) above the runway.

More than 110,000 had been affected by the closure, in one of the busiest weeks of the year.

Gatwick was only able to re-open after military reinforcements were brought in on Thursday.

They came with technology that was used to defeat ISIS in Syria, which the Daily Mail identified as the Israeli-made Drone Dome.

It uses radar technology to spot a drone, and a frequency jammer in order to cut the vehicle from its pilot, and bring it down to the ground softly.

The UK purchased six of the system, unveiled in 2016, in August for Middle-East operations, at a cost of close to US$ 3.3 million each.

Drone Dome is manufactured by government-owned Rafael Systems, which has specialized in cutting-edge weapon interception systems.

– Potential catastrophe –

Aviation chiefs are going to be on a steep learning curve to counter the security threat posed by drones after the costly and humiliating shutdown of Gatwick.

The fear is that if a drone smashed into a passenger plane or was sucked up into one of its engines, its highly flammable lithium battery could cause a catastrophe.

In 2016, the European Aviation Safety Agency logged 1,400 drone incidents in Europe, up from 606 between 2011 and 2015.

Deputies in the European Parliament approved EU-wide regulations on the use of drones, but still need formal approval from European ministers before taking effect.

But finding high-tech solutions to the drone threat in airport presents particular challenges, says Lucas Le Bell, founder of the start-up Cerbair that specialises in tackling the drone problem.

The noise levels at airports, the security requirements and the saturated level of communications make the task much harder.

His team is working on isolating the frequencies used to control drones, so they can not only detect and locate the devices but take control of them.

Elsewhere in France meanwhile, Mont-de Marsan airbase in the southwest has been working on a more low-tech solution.

The airforce, inspired by a similar experiment in the Netherlands, has been training golden eagles to search and destroy the intruders.

But that system still needs work: earlier this year, one of the eagles attacked a girl after mistaking her vest for the enemy.

The article was published on I24 website


Two Israeli Soldiers Killed, Two Seriously Wounded in West Bank Shooting

Man disembarks from vehicle, opens fire and flees scene, witnesses say ■ Israeli forces search for assailant ■ Hamas, Islamic Jihad praise ‘heroic’ attack ■ Israel seals off Ramallah

Two Israeli soldiers were killed and another soldier and a civilian woman were seriously wounded Thursday in a shooting in the West Bank, near the settlement of Ofra.

Israeli army spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said a man disembarked from a vehicle on Route 60, opened fire and fled the scene.

Manelis added that soldiers are canvassing the area in search of several assailants as well as setting up checkpoints, and that the army has sealed off roads leading Ramallah.

One of the fatalities was identified as 20-year-old Staff Sgt. Yovel Mor Yosef, originally from Ashkelon. He served in the Netzah Yehuda Battalion in the Kfir Brigade and is survived by his parents and three sisters. The other fatality was identified as 19-year-old Sgt. Yosef Cohen, originally from Beit Shemesh.

The wounded, a male soldier and a woman, were treated by emergency services and evacuated to hospitals in Jerusalem for further treatment. The man suffered a gunshot wound to the head and is in severe condition, the hospital said. The woman’s condition remains serious but has stabilized, doctors said, adding that as of now, her life is no longer in danger.

Later on Thursday, the Israeli army reported two suspected car-ramming attacks in the West Bank, one near Ramallah and one near the settlement of Kochav Yaakov.

The IDF is focusing mostly on Ramallah in its search efforts. An abandoned vehicle has been located and the military is inspecting whether it was used by the shooters.

In addition, the Shin Bet security service is using its field agents and technological tools in its investigation in order to trace the shooters’ tracks and their escape route.

The defense establishment had no intelligence pointing to a planned terrorist attack. This is yet another shooting attack that the security forces did not manage to prevent.

“There was massive fire, bullet after bullet, but not in bursts,” said one witness, adding that the shooting lasted several seconds.

The deaths extend a violent week that began with a shooting outside a West Bank settlement on Sunday, resulting in the death of a baby who was delivered prematurely after the attack, and continued with the killing of two Palestinians wanted in that and another attack on Israelis in the West Bank.

The military’s West Bank Division is currently better staffed than usual due to the security situation, with 14 battalions in the West Bank alongside special units such as Duvdevan, border police’s Arab-speaking undercover counterterror unit and the police’s special anti-terror unit that has been working in the area in the past few days.

Habayit Hayehudi member and Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel along with MK  Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi) threatened to leave Netanyahu’s fragile coalition, calling for a meeting to discuss immediate security measures to protect West Bank residents.

At the same time, the regional councils of  Mateh Binyamin, Samaria and Beit El called for a strike, demonstrating in front of the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem to demand that the government take additional steps against acts of terror. The local councils will close road in the West Bank in addition to demonstrations by dozens of people that already took place on Thursday near the Kerem Shalom junction off Route 60.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the latest round of violence in the West Bank, criticizing both militant attacks and the tough Israeli response.

Abbas’ office issued a statement on Thursday accusing Israel of creating a “climate” conducive to violence through its frequent military operations in Palestinian cities. Abbas also accused Israel of incitement against him.

His statement says that “the absence of the horizon of peace is what led to this series of violence, which we condemn and reject, and for which both sides pay a price.”

The statement also added: “Our permanent policy is to reject violence, incursions and terror of the settlers, and the need to stop incitement and not to create an atmosphere that contributes to the aggravation of the situation.”

U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman took to Twitter, condemning the attacks, asserting that the PA “maintains laws that will compensate these terrorists and their families for their heinous acts. The PA can be a political body OR a sponsor of terror, not both.”

A paramedic at the scene, Shalom Galil, said: “When we arrived at the location we saw four young people with gunshot wounds near the hitchhiking stop.” According to Galil, a man and a woman in their 20’s, were evacuated to the hospital in serious condition. Two others in critical were left at the scene and treated by Israeli army paramedics.

A senior Israeli army officer told Haaretz “Hamas is investing a lot of effort into establishing terror infrastructures and units for attack in the West Bank. We’re dealing with this in Hebron, Ramallah, Nablus and other places. We often succeed, but some events end harshly.”

“I don’t know to confirm nor refute” the possibility that members of the group involved in Thursday’s attack weren’t also part of the one that exacted the one on Sunday, Manelis said, referring to the incident as a “copycat” of the drive-by shooting near Ofra.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad praised the attack, with the former’s spokesman saying the organization welcomed “the heroic action which is a response to the crimes of the occupation and its behavior,” adding that “the youth of the West Bank will continue to fight.”

Hamas’ political wing chief Ismail Haniyeh said that “what happened today in the West Bank means the situation is starting to change and a new chapter has opened with the occupier through bloody resistance. The blood of Barghouthi and Na’alwa are a point of light for the next generations.”

Haniyeh was referring to Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti whom Israel sentenced to five consecutive life sentences for involvementin terror attacks and Ashraf Walid Saliman Na’alwa, who carried out the shooting attack in the Barkan industrial area in October.

On Wednesday night, Israeli troops shot a Palestinian man near the West Bank city of Ramallah as part of an ongoing manhunt for the assailants beind Sunday’s drive-by shooting near Ofra. The man later died of his wounds at Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem.

The site of the incident is south of the settlement of Ofra, where six Israelis were wounded and a baby, who was delivered after his mother was shot in the attack, died.

On Wednesday, Israeli forces killed Salah Barghouti, a Palestinian suspect wanted in the drive-by shooting in a bus stop near Ofra.

Thursday’s shooting came hours after Israeli security forces tracked down and killed a Palestinian accused of killing two Israelis.

Early on Thursday, Israeli security forces said Ashraf Saliman Na’alwa was killed after he was located armed near the West Bank city of Nablus. Na’alwa was said to be behind the attack that took the lives of Kim Yehezkel-Levengrond and Ziv Hajbi on October.

The article was published in Haaretz


Operation Northern Shield Could Reshape Israel’s Northern Front

The recent discovery of Hezbollah’s invasion tunnels has removed a critical component of the organization’s — and Iran’s — plan for war against Israel. The discovery robbed them of the ability to surprise Israel through an offensive (under)ground assault into Israeli territory, which was to be a central element in creating a shock to the Israeli psyche and challenge to the country’s security. Israel’s aggressive measures are compelling Hezbollah and Iran to reassess their perception of the entire conflict.

In addition, the raids have again embarrassed Iran and its proxies because they exhibit Israel’s superior level of intelligence, following the exposure of Iran’s nuclear archive.

The question right now is to what extent Israel will succeed in leveraging this intelligence disclosure to turn the situation on the northern border to its advantage, with an emphasis on the following objectives:

1. Teaching Lebanon and the international arena that Hezbollah, as an Iranian proxy, is not the “shield of Lebanon,” but in reality a huge danger to that country. Hezbollah is developing strong offensive capabilities against Israel from within Lebanese civilian facilities, and is even working beyond the international border (inside Israeli territory) to serve Iranian interests only. Hezbollah acts in a manner that is a clear violation of Israeli sovereignty and justifies a sharp Israeli response that will cause harm to the country of Lebanon and its citizens. Israel’s recent activity should also be presented as an Israeli effort to prevent damage to Lebanon. The ones putting Lebanon in danger are Hezbollah and Iran, while the one who is looking after it is Israel.

2. Increasing the deterrence against Iran and Hezbollah so that they will be reluctant to continue their attempts to find new ways to threaten Israel, such as improving the accuracy of their rockets and building infrastructure on the Golan Heights.

3. Educating Europe that any attempt to differentiate between the military wing and the political wing of Hezbollah is ridiculous. Does anyone really believe that a handful of rebellious, diligent Hezbollah terrorists decided independently to dig a complex system of tunnels, which demanded so many resources and extended into Israeli territory? It is amazing to see how the Europeans have confirmed the existence of the tunnels and expressed their support for Israel’s right to destroy them, yet refuse to blame Hezbollah and acknowledge that there is no distinction between the military and political wings of the organization. A change in the European position would lead to a significant shift in Hezbollah’s ability to manipulate the Lebanese system, and would penalize it with the heavy and appropriate price they should pay for their violation of Israeli sovereignty.

4. Encouraging UNIFIL to finally implement UN Resolution 1701, asserting that only the Lebanese army is allowed to operate in southern Lebanon, and to make use of the extension of its mandate that it received in 2016. So far, UNIFIL has confirmed the existence of the tunnels, but it has refrained from asserting that Hezbollah has thereby significantly violated Israel’s sovereignty.

5. Intensifying focus on Iran’s role as the master dictating Hezbollah’s activities. It is clear that the buildup of Hezbollah’s forces, especially since the Second Lebanon War, including the invasion tunnels, is intended to serve Iranian purposes and enable Iran to strike at Israel.

The high media profile that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot have given to this operation is intended to influence international, Israeli, Arab, Lebanese, and Iranian opinion. However, it needs to be accompanied by diplomatic activity to achieve these objectives. The problem is that European cynicism is creating a significant obstacle to realizing these goals, and the tense relationship between the United States and Europe is eroding the power of American leverage in this regard.

The article was published on The Algemeiner


EU condemns Hamas’ death sentences

European Union condemns sentencing of six Gazans to death for “collaborating” with Israel.

The European Union (EU) on Tuesday condemned the sentencing of six Gazans to death for “collaborating” with Israel.

A military court in Hamas-run Gaza on Monday sentenced six people, including a woman, to death by hanging over the alleged spying for Israel. In total 14 people were sentenced for “collaborating with the occupation”.

The heads of EU missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah said in a statement quoted by the Xinhua news agency that they strongly reject the death penalty, no matter what the circumstances are.

“The abolition of the death penalty contributes to the protection of human dignity and to the progress and development of human rights,” said the statement, which denounced the death sentences as “cruel and inhumane.”

The EU statement added that “death penalty does not constitute a deterrent to criminal conduct and constitutes an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.”

It called on Hamas rulers in Gaza “to refrain from executing any death sentence against the prisoners.”

Hamas regularly claims to have captured “Israeli spies”, and many times it tries them and sentences them to death.

In theory all execution orders in the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) territories must be approved by PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in Ramallah and who imposed a moratorium on executions several years ago.

Hamas no longer recognizes Abbas’ legitimacy, and has in the past emphatically declared that the death penalty in Gaza can be carried out without his consent.

In October, the group claimed to have exposed and arrested a Palestinian Arab who had worked as an intelligence agent for Israel for 15 years.

In March, the group claimed it had arrested a local man who had been working as a “spy” for Israel and who intended to convince Gazans not to take part in a violent protest march along the Gaza-Israel border.

Last April, the group hanged three men accused of collaborating with Israel in the killing of senior Hamas commander Mazen Faqha.

The article was published on Arutz 7


“Totally Unacceptable”: EU Slams Iran’s Rouhani for Calling Israel a “Cancerous Tumor”

The European Union slammed Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s reference to Israel as a “cancerous tumor,” calling the description “totally unacceptable,” The Times of Israel reported Monday.

“President Rouhani’s remarks bringing into question Israel’s legitimacy are totally unacceptable,” a spokesperson for the EU said in an official statement. “They are also incompatible with the need to address international disputes through dialogue and international law.”

The statement further said that the EU “reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel, including with regard to current and emerging threats in the region.”

Similarly, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted, “I strongly condemn the recent unacceptable statements by President Rouhani relating to Israel. It is absolute